Studio v. Filmmaker

Filed under:Jerks,Movies — posted by Anwyn on January 12, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

Two developments since TORn published Peter Jackson’s open letter about the circumstances surrounding his involvement (or non-) with a movie version of The Hobbit. Let’s just say that regardless of your opinion of the Lord of the Rings movies or your desire to see Jackson make The Hobbit, there isn’t much doubt as to who’s got the high ground here.

Robert Shaye, head of New Line, indulged in a tirade against Jackson and his “arrogant” lawsuit:

“He got a quarter of a billion dollars paid to him so far, justifiably, according to contract, completely right, and this guy, who already has received a quarter of a billion dollars, turns around without wanting to have a discussion with us and sues us and refuses to discuss it unless we just give in to his plan. I don’t want to work with that guy anymore. Why would I? So the answer is he will never make any movie with New Line Cinema again while I’m still working for the company.”

“Justifiably”? What’s that–because you think he deserved it, Mr. Shaye? No, more like “according to contract.” Very well then. So, according to contract, Jackson and his company had the right to check the accounting processes used in tracking the money from the films. That’s not happening, and your response is that he’s being greedy? A more proper response would have been, “Sure. Your contract says you’re entitled to do that. Go nuts.”

“There’s a kind of arrogance,” Shaye said. “… to think that I, as a functionary in [a] company that has been around for a long time, but is now owned by a very big conglomerate, would care one bit about trying to cheat the guy, … he’s either had very poor counsel or is completely misinformed and myopic to think that I care whether I give him [anything].”

It’s arrogant to suspect a company would be trying to cheat on a contract? More like embarrassment, wouldn’t you say, to suspect that the company thinks you’re dumb enough that they can get away with it? And as to bad counsel … no, obviously he has very good counsel telling him what you just said: That you absolutely don’t care whether you give him anything. If you cared about fulfilling the terms of the contract, they’d have analyzed the accounting already.

Honestly, what was New Line so afraid of that they couldn’t let Wingnut into the books, as specified? Were they worried that Wingnut would find something that would lead to … a lawsuit? Quint at Ain’t It Cool News has a theory, as well as Wingnut’s response to Shaye.

Someone sued Paramount over COMING TO AMERICA in which the books on that film were opened and audited. That lawsuit resulted in Eddie Murphy, having nothing to do with the lawsuit, getting a crazy amount of money and never having to go to court. The studio was cheating everybody, so they were forced to pay everybody, not just the person who sued.

It sounds to me like New Line isn’t risking just having to pay Jackson what they owe him, but if the books on all 3 movies are made public, they could owe so many more people money. Or they could have completely fulfilled their contractual obligations to everybody, but then why would they deny access to a contracted party?

My point exactly. Wingnut responds with high-ground boilerplate that, since they’re only asking for what’s in the contract (supposedly; obviously I’m not a first party to any of this), is perfectly sound.

Fundamentally, our legal action is about holding New Line to it’s [sic] contractual obligations and promises. It is regrettable that Bob has chosen to make it personal. I have always had the highest respect and affection for Bob and other senior management at New Line and continue to do so.

Shaye looks to me like a purse-holder throwing a fit. “I already gave you a quarter-billion, so sit down and shut up.” No, Mr. Shaye: The money was earned per the conditions of the contract. Let’s review: Trying to grab money you’re not entitled to? Arrogant. Asking for the conditions of the contract to be fulfilled? Reasonable and prudent.

At the very least, do ya think it wouldn’t get around in Hollywood if Jackson and Wingnut rolled over and said “Gee, we’re so very rich now, we just don’t know what to do with all the money, so no, of course not, no need to go into the details of that pesky contract. We’re just so grateful that we were allowed to make this money on your watch, Mr. Shaye.” Nothing like starting future contract negotiations from the position that execs think you’re a pushover!

A little reality, please, Mr. Shaye, even though pretend is your business.

Cross-posted at Electric Venom.


  1. Let’s just say that regardless of your opinion of the Lord of the Rings movies or your desire to see Jackson make The Hobbit, there isn’t much doubt as to who’s got the high ground here.

    I suppose Grishnakh had the high ground in his dispute with Ugluk too, and Shagrat was clearly in the wrong with Snaga…still, I found it hard to muster much sympathy for any of them.

    For me, this is completely analogous – a bit like the Rosie vs. Donald mud-wrestling contest. As Allahpundit put it, you don’t really care who wins, you just hope for maximum casualties.

    The Hobbit is not a particularly compelling story, AFAIC, so it is a matter of indifference whether they make a film of it or not. I would rather Jackson reshot the most egregious liberties he took with the story and characters in his LotR movies before he and his wife try their hand at “improving” another piece of Professor Tolkien’s oeuvre…

    Comment by LagunaDave — January 14, 2007 @ 4:04 am

  2. I don’t have much invested in whether The Hobbit gets made or not. My reference to “high ground” concerns the items in a contract being fulfilled, period. It is reported that New Line is denying Wingnut the articles of their contract, and then New Line’s head turns around and rags off on Jackson personally? Dumb. High ground: Jackson, by opponent’s idiocy. I don’t think feelings about his portrayal of Lord of the Rings should really enter into whether his contract is properly fulfilled or not.

    Comment by Anwyn — January 14, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

  3. Well, I’m certain the rule of law will sort this out, and I’m sure the fidelity, or lack thereof, in his screenplay won’t be one of the issues on trial.

    Jackson betrayed the original story and characters, clearly cutting a lot corners to ensure that the film was a commercial success. If he hasn’t managed collect all thirty pieces of silver for his efforts, then as Saruman might have said (if Jackson hadn’t cut the pivotal scene in question): “One bad turn deserves another.”

    (No disrespect intended to you – I’m just saying that whatever the legal merits, there are no good guys involved here, as far as I’m concerned)

    Comment by LagunaDave — January 15, 2007 @ 2:56 am

  4. Ok, here’s my e-mail if you need to reach me. Sorry no topical content in this comment…


    Comment by Shabbir — January 16, 2007 @ 11:04 am

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