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Imagine joins ‘Dieter’ fray, sues Myers

Separate breach alleged in strongly worded filing

Jumping into the ”Dieter” imbroglio, Imagine Entertainment has sued comedian Mike Myers, alleging he breached a separate deal with the producer when he pulled out of the Universal Pictures comedy last month.

Imagine, headed by producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, alleges that in March, when Myers renegotiated his ”Dieter” deal with U following the success of Austin Powers sequel ”The Spy Who Shagged Me,” Imagine also kicked in ”a significant part” of its own fee ”in consideration of Myers’ promise to render his services.”

The breach-of-contract suit, in which Imagine seeks $30 million in damages based on its estimated gross participation, was filed Thursday in L.A. Superior Court.

The Imagine suit follows a breach-of-contract suit filed by Universal against Myers last month. In its complaint, U states that under Myers’ 1998 deal, he got $10 million and 10% of gross for writing and acting in the ”Dieter” film. Following the March renegotiation, Myers was to get 12-1/2% of gross and guaranteed compensation in excess of $20 million. According to sources, Imagine agreed to contribute an additional $500,000.

Strongly worded filing

Signaling that the litigation is likely to be an all-out war, the complaint describes Myers as an actor who ”insisted on increasing his fee … because he had become a much bigger star.” Imagine mocks Myers’ statements that he didn’t approve the script for ”Dieter” because of his artistic integrity by stating, ”He claimed he had not approved the screenplay. Who wrote the screenplay? Myers.” Imagine goes on to declare that Myers ”has followed a pattern and practice of breaking his promises, betraying the trust of others and causing serious damages to those with whom he deals through selfish, egomaniacal and irresponsible conduct.”

In seeking punitive damages, Imagine makes the unexplained allegation that ”Myers’ misconduct was also characterized by expressions of inexcusable bigotry.”

Attorney Bert Fields, who represents Imagine, said, ”In my view, it’s about time somebody stood up to this guy. I think the jury and the public will be stunned when they hear the things he said and did.”

Myers’ rep responds

Martin Singer, who represents Myers, said: ”The claims made by Imagine are fictional and without merit. Ironically, Mike Myers has substantial claims against Universal, Imagine and Brian Grazer, but he has refrained from filing those claims for several weeks because of discussions that have been taking place between Universal and Mike Myers’ representatives. Mike Myers has lost the most by not making this movie, which he has worked on for approximately 20 months without receiving one penny from Universal.”

As to the timing of Imagine’s action, Singer added, ”It is my understanding that Imagine and its lawyers were aware that we were possibly going to file our claims against Imagine and Universal (Friday) and they wanted to beat us to the punch.”

Universal declined to comment on the Imagine litigation.

Ongoing litigation

The ”Dieter” litigation started on June 6 when Universal slapped Myers with a breach-of-contract suit one week after the actor called a meeting with producer Grazer and U execs Stacey Snider and Ron Meyer and told them he wasn’t doing the movie because he didn’t like the script and that it couldn’t be fixed.

In its suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, Universal seeks to recover the approximately $5 million it already has spent on the project as well as for lost profits. It also asks that Myers be enjoined from working on any other movie, film or television production for the period during which he had committed to work on the movie.

Universal already had hired first-time director Bo Welch and had made pay-or-play deals with actors Jack Black, Will Ferrell and David Hasselhoff.

In a statement issued the same day, Myers expressed shock at learning that Universal had commenced a lawsuit against him. He maintained that he did not walk off the project but that the script did not meet with his approval and that it would be premature to begin filming. He also stated that he would countersue U for fraud; that so far has not happened.

Myers had spent about a year working on the script based on a character he originally created for ”Saturday Night Live,” a German pop existentialist who hosted a fictional talkshow known as ”Sprockets.”

Filming had been scheduled to start in August, and Universal had slated the comedy for summer 2001.

Suit was followed by rounds of negotiations, at one point involving Steven Spielberg as a mediator, aimed at getting Myers back on the movie. U finally announced on June 16 that it was shutting down production on ”Dieter.” According to sources, Imagine stayed on the sidelines to see if Universal and Myers could settle their differences, but with talks going nowhere, it decided to sue.