Paramount scored another win this week in the latest court battle stemming from the 2006 contracting mistake that nabbed Tommy Lee Jones a $17.5 million bonus for No Country For Old Men. Marathon Funding, a 25% investor and shareholder in Paramount’s Best Picture winner, was forced to pay out $2 million toward Jones’s bonus when a court ruled that the actor was entitled to the sum. Miffed at having to pay for Paramount’s mistake, Marathan sued Paramount for breach of fiduciary duty but lost in L.A. Superior Court in December of 2011. On Monday the fund was denied its appeal against Paramount in a ruling by the Second Appellate Court (read it here). The original slip-up occurred seven years ago when a Paramount lawyer included an erroneous box office bonus clause in contracts for Jones, Joel and Ethan Coen, and producer Scott Rudin. The Coens and Rudin renegotiated their contracts to fix the error but Jones held his ground and won, receiving $10 million more in bonuses than he would otherwise have received.
Maybe the movie should have been called ‘No Courtroom For Old Men’. WME has pulled the plug on its legal efforts to get Tommy Lee Jones to pay up nearly $2 million in owed commissions. The California State Labor Commissioner ruled last October that Jones owes the agency $1.95 million from his role in No Country For Old Men. Money that WME was actively pursing through the courts. However, earlier this month, WME filed a request for dismissal with prejudice (read it here) of its October 31 petition to get the money from the Oscar winner. Though this kind of legal maneuver indicates a deal was struck, no details of a settlement between the parties were made available. The LA Superior Court approved WME’s request on Tuesday, effectively ending the matter.
This case actually started out several years ago as a battle against Paramount over Jones’ back-end compensation for No Country. The actor was eventually awarded $15 million in that action. The $1.95 million is WME’s 10% commission on that award plus interest. Part of the October 1 ruling by the Labor Commissioner was to deny the actor’s request to bar the agency’s recovery of those commissions as well to affirm that WME did support Jones in his multi-million-dollar battle with Paramount. Jones appealed the …
William Morris Endeavor today filed a petition to get Tommy Lee Jones to pay the $1.95 million in commissions the state Labor Commissioner recently ruled the No Country For Old Men actor owes the agency. WME’s filing today (read it here) with the California Superior Court arises out of the appeal the Oscar winner filed on October 10, with an amendment on October 19, against the Labor Commissioner’s October 1 ruling. WME says it can still push for its money now because Jones did not follow procedure. “A prevailing party in a Labor Commission proceeding may enforce an award where the opposing party has appealed the award but has failed to post the requisite bond,” WME’s action today noted. “To date, Jones has not posted a bond…Absent a satisfactory bond, an award issued by the Labor Commissioner is not stayed and may be confirmed by the Superior Court,” it added. Today’s petition requests a hearing date from the court for a ruling on its request.
Considering they’ve rubbed out characters memorably by feeding them through a wood chipper (Fargo) or with a pneumatic cattle slaughtering gun (No Country For Old Men), setting Joel and Ethan Coen loose with a revenge story in the Old West seems a recipe for mayhem. In fact, True Grit turns out to be the most mainstream audience-friendly film they have made in years. Sticking close to the 42-year Charles Portis novel and not even watching the first movie that won John Wayne his Oscar in 1969, the Coens have made a PG-13 adventure film that gives the starring role to teenager Hailee Steinfeld, and surrounds her with such seasoned actors as Jeff Bridges as salty U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon as the blowhard Texas Ranger LaBeouf, and Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper as the ornery outlaws they are chasing. The film opens today, and could add intrigue to the Oscar race.
DEADLINE: How did you find your way to a 40 year old book you’d have been hard pressed to find in a bookstore?
ETHAN COEN: We both knew the book, and we’d both read it, amongst other Charles Portis novels. A few years ago I read it out loud to my son and that was the point we began talking about it, thinking this might be interesting to do.
JOEL COEN: Fully aware there of course there had been this previous movie. But we hadn’t seen that since it came out, and didn’t really remember it very well.
DEADLINE: The book focuses more squarely than the film did on young Mattie, the bright, headstrong teenager determined to see the man who shot her father swing from a rope. What potential did you see in that that overcame the inevitable comparison to a film considered somewhat iconic?
ETHAN COEN: That is what we liked about the book, that it was told in the first person narrative told by the 14-year old character, Mattie Ross. It’s just a very funny book. It has three really great, really vivid characters. Her, Rooster Cogburn and LaBeouf, the Texas Ranger. And it’s a simple pursuit revenge story. It all just seemed promising material for a movie. Which might sound funny because, as you say, there was this iconic movie. Which we were aware of but which we didn’t remember very well.
JOEL COEN: We didn’t revisit it, either.
ETHAN COEN: And in the course of remaking the movie, we didn’t watch the first one. We weren’t much worried about it, though. You say it’s iconic, and that’s very true. But on the other hand, I must say it’s probably iconic for people our age and older. And we’re not the moviegoing demographic anymore. I don’t think younger people have much of a connection to John Wayne, at all. So it didn’t feel like we were trespassing and we didn’t worry about it. We just had this enthusiasm for the novel.
DEADLINE: I should qualify iconic. It’s called that because John Wayne won an Oscar, but many feel that statue was a reward for a career and not that role.
JOEL COEN: That’s what I’ve read about it too, that it was a kind of valedictory thing.
ETHAN COEN: You’ve been around a long time, we love you, here’s an award.
DEADLINE: How did adapting a book like True Grit compare with adapting Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men?
ETHAN COEN: Not dissimilar, actually. In the Cormac book that we did, we had this similar issue.
ICM’s Amanda “Binky” Urban is the first book agent to be selected to receive the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in Fiction. The prize, created in 2005 by The Center For Fiction, is awarded to editors, publishers or agents who’ve championed and nurtured fiction authors. Urban has repped a long list of fiction writers that include Richard Ford, E.L. Doctorow, Anna Quindlen, Cormac McCarthy, Jay McInerney, Toni Morrison, David and Nic Sheff, E.B. White and Haruki Murakami. With her West Coast ICM counterpart Ron Bernstein, Urban has been involved in a slew of book-to-movie movie transfers that include the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men. She’ll receive the award December 6 in New York City.