Jacqui Safra, the Swiss businessman who financed the eight films Woody Allen and Jean Doumanian made together, took the stand Wednesday insisting that seven of those eight pics were in fact cross-collateralized and that no money was owed to Allen.
All day long, Allen’s attorney Michael Zweig directly examined Safra, trying to paint him as a businessman with his hands in so many pies that he and his associates could barely keep track of them all.
But Safra remained fairly calm throughout.
By day’s end, the jury looked more confused and exhausted than convinced by Zweig’s at-times accusatory examination.
Allen, who has begun lensing his next pic, did not make an appearance. His testimony in the $12 million lawsuit he filed against longtime friend Doumanian ended Tuesday, and he will not return to the stand.
A week away?
New York Supreme Court Judge Ira Gammerman, who is handling the case, is expected to move things along quickly in the coming days. A decision could be made as soon as June 12.
Doumanian, who has lived with Safra for years, sat quietly in the courtroom Wednesday, listening to her boyfriend’s testimony.
It was unclear whether she would be asked to take the stand. Letty Aronson, Allen’s sister, who worked for Doumanian’s Sweetland Films but now works for Allen, is expected to testify along with John Logigian, the former Miramax exec who helped Sweetland sell Allen’s films.
Zweig asked Safra to detail his numerous business ventures, most of which lie outside the film biz, including owning Encyclopedia Britannica.
Safra, educated at the Wharton School of Business, had specialized in money management and foreign exchange after rising through the exec ranks at the Republic National Bank, in which Safra’s family has a considerable stake.
Zweig challenges Safra
Zweig first sought to portray Safra as a man who knew little about the film biz per se. He later focused on Safra’s $50 million investment in Allen’s initial slate of three pics, a partnership between Doumanian’s Sweetland and Allen’s Moses banner.
Allen’s lawyer repeatedly tried to corner Safra into saying that he hadn’t personally seen many of the agreements drawn up between Allen and Doumanian, suggesting that accountants, lawyers and others working within Safra’s web of companies may have made crucial miscalculations.
On frequent occasions, Judge Gammerman quieted Safra, who didn’t like being pigeonholed by Zweig into a yes or no answer.
“Has your lawyer ever signed agreements on behalf of Sweetland?” asked Zweig.
“I don’t remember, but,” said Safra.
“That’s the answer!” interrupted Judge Gammerman.
Safra: Verbal deal made
Safra said he, Doumanian and Allen were very close friends and that the decision to extend the initial 1993 three-pic pact to additional films was made verbally over one of the trio’s frequent dinners. It was later written up as an agreement.
Allen’s side contends that only the initial three pics — “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Everyone Says I Love You” — were cross-collateralized and that five subsequent films were not.
Allen claims he is due a director’s salary and half the adjusted gross on each of those five pics, even though all of them performed from poor to middling at the box office.
Zweig noted that Safra had taken an exec producer credit on the pics Allen made with Doumanian.
“What did you do?” asked Zweig.
“I gave the money. Isn’t that good enough?” Safra asked.