ICM honcho Bill Block testified yesterday that he did not necessarily believe oral agreements could be legally binding and that, to his knowledge, Kim Basinger never had a deal to star in “Boxing Helena.”
Block, who was Basinger’s agent at InterTalent Agency during the time “Helena” was being negotiated, was the fourth witness to testify in Main Line Pictures’ suit against the actress and ICM.
The independent production company sued Basinger, alleging breach of contract after she decided not to star in the project, and filed suit against ICM, claiming wrongful interference.
“Deals fall apart all the time,” Block told jurors. “To my knowledge, there was no final deal for Kim to star in ‘Boxing Helena,’ so until it was closed, my job then was to pursue every possible deal for her until one stuck.”
Block said while lawyers for Basinger and Main Line continued to hash out points on a longform contract, he was pursuing other possibilities for the actress. Among them were “Death Becomes Her” and “Single White Female,” both of which would have gone into production around the same time as “Boxing Helena,” had the indie film continued on schedule.
“If it had been my understanding that Kim had a legal obligation to star in ‘Boxing Helena,’ I never would have pursued these other parts for her,” he testified.
When asked if he believed an actor could be legally bound by an verbal agreement, Block said no.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think your word is everything,” he said. “But if you’re asking if someone is legally bound by an oral commitment, I’d have to say no.”
Block said he began to put the “Boxing” deal together in late January 1991, after a conversation with Basinger, held in her trailer on the set of “The Marrying Man.”
“Kim and I had a business discussion that day in which she agreed to let me go ahead and try to make a deal for both ‘Final Analysis’ and ‘Boxing Helena,’ ” Block said. “I think the only discussion we had about ‘Boxing’ at that point was that I told her she had the greatest legs in the world, why would she want to play a role where they get cut off?”
Yet Block, through InterTalent lawyer Robin Russell, went ahead and negotiated the actress’ compensation for the film, which included a $ 600,000 upfront pay-or-play fee, with other payments and back-end percentages that would eventually equal out to $ 3 million if the film went into profits.
He also orchestrated Basinger’s billing, although he testified that the actress decided, against his advice, to accept second billing to Ed Harris.
“My role as an agent was to do the cash, the percentages and the credit,” he said. “After I do my share, I hand the baton to the attorneys and let them work out the deal points.”
Block said industry practice held that after the attorneys had finalized the deal points, the deal would then come back to the actor for a final approval.
“But (InterTalent attorney) Robin Russell never told me the negotiations were concluded,” Block testified.
Block was fired as Basinger’s agent in late February or early March 1992. ICM’s Guy McElwaine was hired to replace him.
Block’s company ended up merging with ICM last October.