Grimaldi files ‘Gangs’ suit over credits

Producer attempting to prevent release of pic

Producer Alberto Grimaldi and his Gotham-based P.E.A. Films have filed a $10 million lawsuit against AMG, Michael Ovitz, the Walt Disney Co., Universal and Initial Entertainment Group, charging each with breach of contract over a producing credit on Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited “Gangs of New York.”

The suit was filed last week in New York’s Federal Court.

Grimaldi, the pic’s producer, was integrally involved in setting the film up at U, but Disney subsequently developed the pic without Grimaldi’s input. He claims that he was granted sole producing credit, but Disney, AMG and Ovitz later pressed to get Scorsese a shared producing credit.

Injunction sought

The plaintiffs seek an injunction against the defendants, preventing the release of the film, as well as monetary damages of more than $10 million dollars; they also seek to reclaim the rights to the film, which is budgeted at close to $100 million (the lion’s share of which is to be financed through IEG).

“Gangs,” set in New York during the peak of Tammany Hall’s political corruption and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as one of Gotham’s original gangsters, was scheduled to begin production in April in Rome and New York.

The suit also names as defendants the film’s international distributors, including Shochiku Films, M6 Music, CLT/Ufa Intl., RCV 2001, Scholar Films and Splendid Film Klein.

Rights dispute

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs also claim that, as part of their initial agreement with Universal Pictures, both parties agreed that if the film was not in active development for more than six consecutive months, pic would be deemed abandoned. The plaintiffs claim that under that original agreement, the rights to “Gangs” should have reverted back to P.E.A. after a period of inactivity ending on Oct. 6, 1997.

According to the plaintiffs, Universal advised P.E.A. that it had assigned all rights to the project to Disney. In various communications with P.E.A., Disney represented that it had resumed active development by Nov. 8, 1997. But, according to the suit, P.E.A. believes “these representations were false and made with the specific intent to deny P.E.A. its right of reversion.”

Original pact questioned

Also at issue is the original agreement between P.E.A. and Universal, which assigned Grimaldi sole producer credit. The plaintiffs claim that Disney, AMG and Ovitz are in violation of the plaintiff’s rights for demanding that Grimaldi should share producing credit with Scorsese, Barbara De Fina or their production company, Cappa Prods. AMG reps Scorsese and DiCaprio.

The project, which has been in development since early 1991, was set back in November when Robert De Niro dropped out for personal reasons.

Grimaldi’s producing credits include “Last Tango in Paris,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Satyricon.”

Scorsese was not available for comment. Universal Pictures declined comment.

AMG, IEG, Disney and Michael Ovitz could not be reached.

P.E.A. and Grimaldi are repped by Ronald S. Taft and Porzio, Bromberg and Newman.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)