Two producers claim that they’ve been stymied in their efforts to exercise an option to a Janis Joplin biopic, set to star Amy Adams, because of the “unconscionable” demands made by a lender to one of the project’s screenwriters.
Silver Reel Partners and LKL Prods. claim in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Wednesday that they were granted an option to the screenplay “Get It While You Can,” written by Ron Terry and Teresa Kounin-Terry, as long as they could restructure a $1.7 million loan made to Terry’s company. The producers claim that when they tried to do so, the lender, Chesterton Capital, demanded usurious interest exceeding 235% of the principal.
The plaintiffs contend that Chesterton and its principal, John P. Walsh, are holding “the screenplay and the picture hostage … unless outrageous sums are paid.”
They also claim that, even though the option is exclusive, Terry and his loan-out companies have shopped the project, and Chesterton and Walsh have solicited third-party offers for the screenplay. They are seeking a court declaration that the loan demands are illegal and usurious, as well as an order prohibiting the project from being shopped to other parties. They also are seeking to have the term of the option agreement extended pending the outcome of the litigation. It is set to expire at the end of the month.
Terry is among the defendants in the suit along with Chesterton and Walsh.
The plaintiffs say that in the agreement made in August, they paid Terry $117,000 for the option. They contend that Terry told them that Chesterton would be willing to accept a payment of the principal and reasonable interest to release any security interests they have in the project.
But the producers say that, in making loans to Terry, Chesterton and Walsh extracted “unconscionable” loan terms as he was undergoing cancer treatment and was under “physical and financial duress.” They claim that Walsh has insisted that the loans be repaid under the usurious terms, putting a cloud on the title to the screenplay and movie.
A representative for Terry said they had no comment, and Walsh and Chesterton Capital could not be reached.
The plaintiffs are represented by Gregory Korn and Jeremiah Reynolds of Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump & Aldisert.