Tony Leech, the co-director and co-writer of 2005’s Hoodwinked!, is claiming Harvey and Bob Weinstein sabotaged the delayed comedy Escape from Planet Earth “through a potent combination of hubris, incompetence, profligate spending, and contempt for contractual obligations.” A $50 million lawsuit, which labels both brothers “out-of-control movie executives” who “are a real-life version of Bialystock & Bloom (from the film and show The Producers), claims that the Weinsteins oversold potential profits from the film, leading to Planet Earth’s delay. (The film was originally slated for a 2009 release.)
Leech also alleges in the $50 million lawsuit that Weinstein Co., paid him and fellow plaintiffs Brian Inerfeld and Protocol Pictures, Inc., $500,000 in order to delay the filing until after the Academy Awards.
“The Weinsteins, knowing that they had been guilty of the incompetence and fraud alleged herein, did not want to take the chance that their reputations would be sullied by the truth at a time when the voting for the Oscars was underway.” The suit also alleges that breaches of contract and indecision from the Weinsteins contributed to Planet Earth’s delay. (Also, the plaintiffs claim the brothers breached contracts on additional projects, including a Fraggle Rock adaptation.) “Despite the Weinsteins’ renown as the founders of Miramax,” says the suit, “they are utterly incapable of seeing an animated film through to completion.”
Statements from Weinsteins’ lawyers say the suit is “frivolous” and “slanderous,” and that the plaintiffs “were let go after they refused to make the picture which TWC wanted.” Said Weinstein lawyer Bert Fields in the statement:
“They were paid in excess of $2,000,000 which is what was called for by their contract. They then threatened to ‘go public’ with false assertions about TWC’s principals unless they were paid money to which they were not entitled. Their conduct has been unethical and reprehensible. I can’t wait to get them under oath.” Attorney David Boies added:
“This is an irresponsible and baseless lawsuit filed as part of an attempt to extort millions of dollars from Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company. Plaintiffs and their counsel threatened to attack Mr. Weinstein and the Weinstein Company publicly unless paid $5 million, an amount that bore no relationship to any possible amount in dispute. When their demands were refused, this lawsuit and their accompanying press campaign resulted. Plaintiffs and their counsel should be ashamed of themselves.”