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Artisan sues Polanski for taking money

Company alleges filmmaker absconded more than $1 mil

Artisan Entertainment has sued filmmaker Roman Polanski, claiming the director absconded with more than $1 million from the film “The Ninth Gate.”

The complaint, filed July 11 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that Polanski and his production company, R.P. Prods., pocketed refunds of France’s value-added tax instead of turning them over to Intl. Film Guarantors, Artisan’s completion bond company.

As detailed in the lawsuit, R.P. Prods. was responsible for the actual filming of the picture, which was financed by three banks. The banks loaned money to Ledge Co., which released it to R.P. Prods. to produce the film.

Because the movie was filmed in France and ultimately exported, a VAT refund was available on the production’s expenses. As of August 1999, R.P. Prods. had received $619,000 in VAT refunds and was due to receive an additional $577,000.

‘Refused all requests’

Instead of depositing the refunds in one of the production bank accounts as was required under its agreement, the complaint states, Polanski “brazenly deposited the money in a private account” and “has refused all requests to return the money.” The complaint alleges causes of action for breach of contract and conversion.

Both Artisan and its attorney Bert Deixler declined to comment on the suit.

Polanski’s agent, Jeff Berg, at International Creative Management, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

“The Ninth Gate,” starring Johnny Depp, Frank Langella and Lena Olin, was released in Europe in 1999 and earlier this year in the United States. With a budget of more than $30 million, it was Artisan’s biggest production at the time.

Artisan, a distributor of motion pictures, is best known for the phenomenally successful “The Blair Witch Project.” Polish-born Polanski directed such classics as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown” when he was in Hollywood. He has lived in Paris since the late 1970s, when he fled Los Angeles following a conviction of statutory rape amid charges of having sex with an underage girl.

(Jonathan Bing in New York contributed to this report.)