Robin Williams sues Frank and Beans

Actor says he's owed $6 million for 'Couple'

Robin Williams is suing Frank and Beans Prods. and Gold Circle Films over $6 million allegedly owed the actor on a pay-or-play deal to star in the detective comedy “A Couple of Dicks.”

The lawsuit, filed Friday in L.A. Superior Court, states that the film was supposed to start shooting no later than April 15, and that Williams had approval of co-star James Gandolfini and rookie directors Mark and Rob Cullen (“Las Vegas,” “Heist”). Williams was informed in March that the movie was not going to be made and that he would not receive his pay-or-play fee.

Even though Gold Circle has put the project in turnaround to Warner Bros. (which is redeveloping and renaming the movie under producer Mark Platt), Williams maintains that Gold Circle is still obligated to pay him. His agreement was both oral and written, in the form of a deal memo, although a final agreement, as is customary, was never signed.

Terrence Howard may wish that he had a pay-or-play deal. The actor discussed on NPR’s Weekend Edition the loss of the role of War Machine that he had originated in “Iron Man.” He told Scott Simon that he learned that Don Cheadle would be taking over the role in “Iron Man 2” in the trades.

“It was the surprise of my life,” he said, stating that Marvel reneged on their contract and their promises to him. He indicated that the issue wasn’t money.

Other actors who have filed for their pay-or-play fees in recent years are John Cusack and Diane Lane, on “Stopping Power” and “Me Again,” respectively, both with Intermedia. (Most stars wind up settling these disputes.)

During the coming economic downturn, as there is less available money to produce films, and as the number of films getting made decreases, there will be a larger number of actors looking for work. Many companies may be less willing to take on these pay-or-play deals, which nail down a star to commit a timeslot to a movie, allowing the companies to raise funds on the star’s name. But sometimes these funds never materialize.

In August 2007, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson filed suit against Gold Circle Films for their share of the profits on the company’s only breakout hit, 2002’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”