Weinstein accused of delaying $50m lawsuit with 'hush money'

 

Los Angeles

When he picked up a golden statuette on Sunday, Colin Firth made sure to thank the man who made The King's Speech possible: independent film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who stumped up roughly half of the film's £9m budget and was responsible for masterminding its Oscar campaign.

That was then. But after an exciting few days as the toast of Hollywood, Weinstein – who, Firth recalled, "first took me on 20 years ago when I was a mere child sensation" – has been struck by one of those jarring headaches that follow every good celebration.

The cause is a $50m (£31.25m) lawsuit, detailing what it calls his "hubris, incompetence" and "contempt for contractual obligations", and claiming that his firm, The Weinstein Company, deliberately sabotaged production of an animated film and attempted to defraud its creators.

Court papers made public on Wednesday further allege that $500,000 in "hush-money" was paid to delay the case until after the Oscars, so that it would not be on Academy members' minds while they were casting their votes.

Weinstein, a veteran of many legal spats, robustly denies the 60 pages of allegations filed by Brian Inerfield and Tony Leech, who fell out with him after spending five years working on the troubled cartoon Escape from Planet Earth. Mr Weinstein's lawyers said yesterday that he's looking forward to contesting their "slanderous" claims.

The suit is nonetheless sure to add to the legend surrounding the famously eccentric movie producer, whose reputation for volatility has on occasion overshadowed his standing as one of the modern era's greatest champions of independent cinema.

Inerfield and Leech, who made the 2005 hit Hoodwinked, claim they approached Weinstein with the idea for Planet Earth in 2006. He gave the project the green light and scheduled it for release in January 2009, agreeing to pay the $30m budget.

But the film instead languished in production, with The Weinstein Company refusing to sign off on a final version its script, or to agree to important casting decisions. As a result, it has still not neared completion.

Inerfield and Leech therefore claim to have been denied back-end profits from the title, and say their professional reputation has been damaged. Their suit calls Harvey and his business partner and brother Bob "a real-life version of Bialystock & Bloom", the bumbling characters from the Mel Brooks satire The Producers.

Parts certainly read like a comic novel. At one point the plaintiffs claim that Weinstein for weeks refused to accept their telephone calls, explaining: "I [only] take Obama's calls." When they finally got him to attend a meeting, he "proceeded to fall asleep".

At a screening of a story-reel for the film, they say the rotund Weinstein, who is diabetic, meanwhile attempted to consume a large bowl of M&Ms. "When a TWC executive sought to retrieve the bowl of candy out of obvious concern for Harvey Weinstein's health, he fought to keep it," their suit claims. "In the tumult the M&Ms scattered all over the floor. Then, instead of watching the reel, Harvey Weinstein got down on his hands and knees and began eating M&Ms off the floor."

On the financial front Inerfield and Leech say 200 animators employed on the project were unable to produce any meaningful work because Weinstein kept altering the script and cast. As a result, they wasted $19m of the budget.

At one point the brothers allegedly decided that "it was more sensible to pay Kevin Bacon $25,000 not to be in a role that he had agreed to do for $50,000 because $50,000 was supposedly too much to pay Mr Bacon".

A Weinstein Company statement reads: "The pleading contains little more than false, gratuitous, slanderous, preposterous and totally irrelevant personal attacks on TWC and its principals."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam