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.
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."