Leech, Inerfield file suit over action-comedy toon

Claiming that “hubris, incompetence” and “a contempt for contractual obligations” sabotaged their film, producers Tony Leech and Brian Inerfield have filed a $54 million lawsuit against Bob and Harvey Weinstein for their handling of unreleased action-comedy toon “Escape From Planet Earth.”

The suit was filed Wednesday in New York Superior Court. The $54 million figure comes from what Leech and Inerfield estimate they would have made on the film as part of their 20% cut of adjusted gross profits.

“This is a completely frivolous lawsuit,” TWC attorney Bert Fields countered in a statement. “The pleading contains little more than false, gratuitous, slanderous, preposterous and totally irrelevant personal attacks on TWC and its principals. Plaintiffs were let go after they refused to make the picture which TWC wanted. They were paid in excess of $2,000,000 which is what was called for by their contract.”

Leech and Inerfield allege that the brothers mishandled the film’s finances and had to secretly take out a loan against the producers’ share of back-end profits to help finish the project.

The Weinsteins “are a real-life version of Bialystock and Bloom,” the pair’s attorney Judd Berstein stated in legal filings, refering to the duo in “The Producers.” The suit claims that the brothers even paid $500,000 to keep the lawsuit quiet so as not to jeopardize Oscar chances for “The King’s Speech.”

On the other hand, TWC claims Leech and Inerfield extorted the Weinsteins for the $500,000.

The detailed list of allegations in the court papers include endless requests for rewrites, needless cost overruns, breach of pay-and-play contracts and casting turmoil that, papers say, include the Weinsteins paying Kevin Bacon $25,000 to dissolve his attachment to a project in which he had agreed to participate. Papers also describe a confused casting tug-of-war that drops the names of Alec Baldwin, Jessica Alba, Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Garner among thesps considered for or attached to various voice roles.

The plaintiffs claim they were forced to do 17 script rewrites, in part because the brothers “failed to grasp basic realities about the animation process.”

In addition to financial damages, the duo also wants a recission of their original “Escape” agreement with TWC.

Papers also include allegations of breaches regarding a “Fraggle Rock” film adaptation, as well as other potential projects.

Another Weinstein attorney responded with allegations of his own. “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,” he said in a statement.

The suit is the second for the Weinsteins within the past month. On Feb. 7, Michael Moore filed papers claiming he was owed at least $2.7 million on 2004 doc “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

(Gordon Cox contributed to this report.)

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