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Michael Moore sues Weinstein brothers over 'Fahrenheit 9/11' profits [Updated]

When Harvey and Bob Weinstein released Michael Moore's political documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" in fall 2004, it became a cultural phenomenon and grossed $119 million at the U.S. box office.

Now the director says more of that money should have made it into his pocket.

In a suit filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Moore alleged that the Weinsteins, on behalf of an outfit called the Fellowship Adventure Group that they formed to release the movie, had illegally kept money from him.

Moore is seeking at least $2.7 million in compensatory damages as well as legal and other costs; the filmmaker also left open the possibility that he could seek further damages once a complete audit is done, a process the suit alleges has not happened.

"This case is about classic Hollywood accounting tricks and financial deception perpetrated by the Fellowship Adventure Group and its owners Bob and Harvey Weinstein," the suit began. The complaint alleged "bogus accounting methods" and "substantial irregularities in the accounting of the film" and said the company has "secretly divert[ed] monies owed" to Moore and his Westside Productions company. Moore's suit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud.

Weinste Among the allegations Moore makes is that the Weinsteins deducted residual payments from the balance sheet that were never made; deducted expenses Moore did not authorize; overstated the distribution fee to select international distributors; and covertly deducted more than $2.5 million from the revenue pool from which the Weinsteins were to pay Moore. According to the lawsuit, Moore and Fellowship were to split profits 50-50, an extremely generous deal for a director compared with what most filmmakers receive.

Attorney Bert Fields, who is representing the Weinsteins, said that the claims are "just designed for the media and are utter rubbish." He also speculated that Oscar-season rivals may have had a hand in the lawsuit. "I'm suspicious of the timing of this in this pre-award period and really wonder who put him up to it," Field said, acknowledging he had "no hard evidence." 

Weinstein Co.'s royals drama "The King's Speech" is considered an Oscar frontrunner.

Fields, who acknowledged there were settlement discussions several months ago, said he was surprised to find a lawsuit filed Monday. He said Moore had been paid $19.8 million over the course of the release and post-release period of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and has "received every dime he's entitled to."

[Updated at 3:40 p.m.: Hollywood attorney Larry Stein, who represents Moore, dismissed the idea that Oscar agendas played a role in the suit. "Michael has no dog in the race -- he doesn't even have a film this year," Stein said in an interview. "We've been trying to work on a settlement for six months, long before 'King's Speech' was ever up for a nomination. Michael's been very patient, but at some point you can't just keep waiting."

Stein later added in a statement: "This is the first time Michael Moore has ever sued anyone in his 20-year career as a filmmaker. That should be some indication about how serious this is."

"It's very sad it had to come to this," the statement said. "Michael believes the Weinsteins have been a force for good when it comes to championing independent film -- but that does not give them the right to violate a contract and take money that isn't theirs."]

A spokesman at William Morris Endeavor, where Moore is represented by agent Ari Emanuel, said the agent would not be commenting on the lawsuit.

This is hardly the first time the movie, which examines the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration and the alleged corporate complicity in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has been the subject of a legal or business controversy. The Weinsteins, whose company at the time of "Fahrenheit" was owned by Walt Disney Co., stepped in to finance the film after Mel Gibson's Icon Productions fell out. But the conglomerate refused to release it, prompting Harvey Weinstein to form Fellowship (and eliciting a slew of headlines and Harvey Weinstein interviews). The movie went on to gross $222 million around the world.

The suit marks a further turn in the relationship between the provocateur documentarian and the independent-film kingpin. Although they collaborated fruitfully on several documentaries -- including "Fahrenheit" followup "Sicko," about the U.S. healthcare industry, in 2007 -- Moore and Weinstein pointedly did not collaborate on Moore's most recent documentary project, the financial-crisis critique "Capitalism: A Love Story."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Top photo: Michael Moore in 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' Credit: Ho / Reuters. Bottom photo: Harvey Weinstein. Credit: Michael Buckner / Getty Images for Bing

Comments () | Archives (25)

I wonder if they properly accounted for the advances most studios/production companies get from the labs.

No! St. Michael did his film for money??? Say it ain't so! Next they're going to tell me that St. Albert made money off of his Inconviently Twisted Truth.

Well, we have here either a capitalist communist, or an anti-capitalist capitalist.

You choose it. Either way, it's hypocrisy.

"I'm a millionaire, I'm a multi-millionaire, I'm filthy rich. You know why I'm a multi-millionaire? 'Cause multi-millions like what I do. That's pretty good, isn't it? There's millions that believe in what I do. Pretty cool, huh? "

` Micheal Moore, AKA Your typical obese Capitalist pig hypochrit

He sucks at being a Markist!

"but that does not give them the right to violate a contract and take money that isn't theirs."


It's hard to improve on HotAir's caption for this article.

"Socialist Filmmaker demands his Profits"

Typical liberal hypocrisy.

From what I have heard, at some point in the money making process, "enough is enough." I guess that $19 million for one movie does not hit that mark. Typical "do as I say, not as I do" talking points when the "haves" bestow their spoken words on the "have nots." Next we'll be told that Michael Moore is asking for tax breaks in Michigan for his film making ventures, oh wait........that already happened. Yeah, I suppose those figures warrant a publicly funded subsidy.

Sweet. Michael Moore represented by agent Ari Emmanuel. That would be brother to Rahm, former advisor to Barack. This whole distribution of wealth thing is beginning to make sense.

socialist film maker demands his profits! hilarious.

I am playing my tiniest violin for MM.

Here I find myself
Hoping for a Meteor
Instead of winners...

HaHaHa the die hard socialist and guy who blasts anyone with a profit motive is suing for more money! Pot meet Kettle.

"I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money." - Pres. Obama

Socialism is hard.

Alternate headline: Noted Socialist Demands His Greedy Profits

It real amazes me that a momo Moore wants to get paid for garbage

Will Michael Moore turn around and compensate the workers he fired because they wanted to unionize? Or is this just another example of liberals engaging in "Do as I say, not as I do"?

So, fatso the socialist is paid $19.8 million for directing one film, but sues for 2.7M more?

"You would think that he's the ultimate common man. But he's money-obsessed," said one associate.


Wait. The Weinsteins were the ones who produced that sack of lies by Michael Moore? That's good to know.

"Moore's suit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud."

Look at all these evil Capitalist concepts that Moore invokes. What towering, dazzling hypocrisy.

Time to eat a big old hypocrite sandwich, Mike.

Whats the big deal? The Weinsteins gave Moore the amount they thought he should receive. Socialism sucks doesn't it mikey? Oh but wait...we are talking millions of dollars here....yeay....go capitalism!!! Liberals all try and talk a good game but at the end of the day they are all just out for the almighty dollar too.

the lawsuit is demanding an equitable distribution of wealth arising from the project and therefore is not capitalist in its nature, but rather socialist.

Cuba banned his movie because what it showed was how a small segment of society receive good healthcare while 99 percent receive poor to no care at all.
It was a weird case of reverse propaganda. Google it!

Reading these comments makes me laugh, like Mr. Moore is any different from any other working person who did his job made a successful film, exposing corruption in our government, and the people responsible for handling the money side of it steal from him like the brokers, wall street thieves, bankers and hedge fund so-called managers. If a working person wants to get what he deserves based on a legal contract, he is a capitalist, but corporations and professionals can do and charge what ever they want without scrutiny! How sad for a true patriot who exposes the truth!

This story says it all, bean counters get away with millions because they know how to cook the books! But when they get caught they try to blame someone else, how pathetic!

It is clear that over the years Mr. Moore has been able to fool the foolish.
His sad and questionable mission was not as much about helping the down trodden as it was about self promotion to garner personal adulation, questionable fame and an unmerited fortune.
The work of the honest and selfless Flint blue-collar activist workers, who Mr. Moore coat-tailed and used to build his career upon decades ago, accurately identified his real essence and motives. They understood the failures of his twisted dog eat dog obsession of “self-above-cause”.


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