‘Gangs’ green for Grimaldi

Producer getting $3 mil, pic to continue prod'n

Producer Alberto Grimaldi has won the ‘Gangs’ war.

Three months after it started, the high-profile lawsuit pursued by Grimaldi and his Gotham-based P.E.A. Films against AMG, Michael Ovitz, the Walt Disney Co., Universal, Initial Entertainment Group (IEG) and its foreign distribs over Martin Scorsese’s $100 million drama “Gangs of New York” has been settled.

Under the terms of the settlement, reached Thursday night at the Federal District Court in New York, Grimaldi and P.E.A. will be awarded north of $3 million, though not the entire $10 million dollars for which he initially sued (Daily Variety, Dec. 27, 1999). Grimaldi came up with the idea for the film and was integrally involved in setting it up at U in 1991, long before the underlying rights were sold to Disney and before Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro agreed to star (De Niro departed the pic in November).

In his suit, Grimaldi had sought an injunction against U and Disney for icing him out of the pic’s development and attempting to force him to share his producing credit with Scorsese. He also demanded that the film not be made. Settlement gives the producer sole production credit, first position producer credit (one other person can get producer credit behind his name), a cash payment and significant participation in the film’s backend.

Also under the settlement, the entire project will revert to Grimaldi if the picture isn’t made by the end of 2001.

Settlement also stipulates that Alberto’s son, Mauritizio Grimaldi, will be granted an executive producer credit (Mauritizio was instrumental in the project’s development). Scorsese’s ex-wife and producing partner, Barbara De Fina, is no longer involved in the project and will not receive any credit. The second position producer credit will go to whomever is hired by Miramax to serve as the pic’s line producer.

The cash settlement will be paid out equally by IEG (the pic’s principal financier) and Disney/Miramax, who together will provide the rest of the pic’s budget. Miramax is the film’s domestic distributor while IEG is handling international rights.

“Grimaldi got everything provided for in his original contract plus an additional cash settlement,” said a source close to the suit.

IEG’s Graham King, who said he wasn’t yet fully aware of the terms of the settlement, said, “I am really happy this is over with so we can move ahead with the film.”

AMG notes that pre-production is already underway in Rome.

Other sources underplay the significance of the settlement and say the only thing holding up production is scribe Steven Zailllian’s rewrite.

Miramax, Disney and AMG, which reps Scorsese and DiCaprio, can also take solace in the fact that Grimaldi is, for all intents and purposes, out of the filmmaking process and that production can proceed full steam ahead.

Suit had stalled Disney and Miramax’s efforts to fast-track the film, at one point slated to begin lensing this monthin Rome. Scorsese, IEG and the studios will now accelerate efforts to replace De Niro and cast the female lead. Sources say Cameron Diaz is all but signed for the part.

IEG’s investment in the film is about $65 million, but pre-sales have already been brisk: Company has closed deals in Japan, France, Germany and other major territories.

“Gangs” is set in New York during the peak of Tammany Hall’s political corruption. DiCaprio plays a Gotham gangster who organized street gangs in an effort to control the city’s street wars between Italian and Irish immigrants.

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

P.E.A. and Grimaldi are repped by Ronald S. Taft, Scorsese and DiCaprio by AMG and Diaz by ICM and AMG.