Just under a year from now, Legendary Pictures is set to face off at trial against producers Roy Lee, Dan Lin and Doug Davison in a battle over the trio being ejected from Godzilla. Having failed to keep the matter in arbitration, the studio used a motion filed last week to try to gut the producers’ claims of fraud in a cross-complaint, but the other side isn’t buying this latest move. “I think [Legendary is] very vulnerable,” says the producers’ main lawyer Stanton L. Stein of LA’s Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor. “I think they will do anything to slow down this going to trial, just like they have tried and failed in the past. They needed that property, and they used us to get it. They specified $1.3 million, first-dollar gross and a producer credit,” he adds of the deal his clients had with the studio to shepherd the Godzilla reboot all the way to the big screen. “They promised it and never delivered.”
Legendary is taking an offensive approach with the motion it filed last week. “They claim that (Jon) Jashni and Legendary never intended to perform on promises allegedly made in 2009 and early 2010 that Cross-Complainants would be ‘well-treated’ on the Film and would be compensated and credited as its producers,” says the May 30 demurrer motion (read it here) from Legendary’s lawyers at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP. Claiming that emails proclaiming such good treatment were just an opinion on the exec’s part, Legendary has sought a July 31 hearing on the motion. With potentially millions at stake, the trial between the parties is set to start on May 17, 2015. While all this legal warfare has been going on, Godzilla came out May 16 and has made more than $375 million worldwide.
On January 9, 2013, Legendary filed a complaint to remove Lin, Lee and Davison from the mega-monster reboot with a bloodless $25,000 payout. According to Legendary, the small payout was all the trio were due under the March 2011 Producer Loan Agreement between them and Thomas Tull’s studio. Lin, Lee and Davison, who the company claimed were about to seek a temporary restraining order against the movie, fired back and filed a breach-of-contract cross complaint on January 17 last year. The trio are seeking millions in compensatory damages, screen credit, and participation in Godzilla sequels, prequels, or further remakes for the work they say they did in helping Legendary acquire rights to the Godzilla character from Japanese corporation Toho and getting the now-blockbuster pic off the ground.
On March 4 this year, after months of court-ordered mediation, a California Appeals Court judge denied Legendary’s attempt to keep the whole thing out of the public eye in arbitration, and a trial date was set. Now Legendary want to kneecap four of the causes of action in the producers cross-complaint to being the trio’s case down.
“The notion that Jashni and Legendary knew in 2009 and early 2010 that three years later they would terminate Cross-Complainants as producers of Godzilla — but only after proposing a long-form producing agreement to them, allowing them to work on the Film, and announcing in a press release that they would be producing the Film — is complete sophistry,” say Legendary in this latest motion in response to the producers over a year old cross-complaint. “This claim is nothing more than a vehicle for Cross-Complainants to exercise their animus toward Jashni and name him personally in the case. Whatever their motive, the fraud claim is not pled with sufficient particularity and should be dismissed.”
We’ll see if that happens at the end of next month or not.
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.