The legal spat between Woody Allen and his former friend and producer Jean Doumanian got under way Thursday in front of a packed courtroom.
Allen’s attorney, Michael Zweig of Loeb & Loeb, delivered his opening statement outlining the allegations that Allen has been cheated out of profits due him from a slate of films; Doumanian’s attorney, Peter Parcher, began but did not finish his opening. He will conclude today.
The jury trial in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan resumes with Allen’s side calling witnesses. Among the first are expected to be Stephen Tenenbaum, Allen’s business manager, and Jacqui Safra — Doumanian’s longtime companion and financial backer.
At the start of the trial, the parties were far apart, with Allen claiming he is owed more than $12 million, and Doumanian claiming costs still have not been recouped.
Allen filed suit in May 2001, alleging that under a 1993 agreement, he was to receive a salary as well as half the adjusted gross on three films: “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Everyone Says I Love You.” Five more films were made under an oral contract with the same terms as the written contract: “Deconstructing Harry,” docu “Wild Man Blues,” “Celebrity,” “Sweet and Lowdown” and “Small Time Crooks.”
Suit claims that instead of a proper accounting, Allen received a single cursory statement that reflected improper, duplicative and overstated expense charges and failed to account properly for revenues.
A month later, Doumanian countersued, claiming Allen actually was overpaid on the disputed films. Her suit alleges she stepped in to produce Allen’s movies when TriStar, which had produced and financed his films, got cold feet because of the scandal and subsequent custody fight with Mia Farrow in the early 1990s. She also claims Allen’s “self-indulgent conduct and profligate spending” vastly increased the cost of the films.
The crux of the counterclaim is that seven of the eight films produced and financed by Doumanian were to be cross-collateralized, meaning cumulative losses on the entire pool of films were to be offset against cumulative profits. The counterclaim alleges some of the films were profitable and some were not, and Allen has been paid all profits to which he is entitled. Also alleged is that Doumanian’s company, Sweetland Films, invested additional money when the films went over budget and did not charge interest, saving Allen approximately $15 million.
Before Allen filed suit, he had described Doumanian as a lifelong friend.
The lawsuit was prompted by a report from a Los Angeles auditing firm hired to look into the financial statements Allen received from Sweetland.
Allen and Doumanian ended their relationship in March 2000, in a split that was described at the time as amicable. He then signed with DreamWorks.