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Producers Claim ‘London Fields’ Director Mathew Cullen Breached Contract

London Fields TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

The producers of “London Fields” claim that director Mathew Cullen breached his contract to direct and deliver the movie on budget and on time, even though he was given deadline extensions.

The movie’s Toronto Film Festival world premiere was canceled after Cullen filed a lawsuit against the producers, claiming that they had engaged in “fraudulent efforts” to revise the movie without his knowledge. The producers, including Nicola Six, filed a cross complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court this week contending that Cullen breached his contract.

Among other things they contend that the producers and investors incurred more than $12.5 million in costs for the movie, more than $4.5 million over the original budget, due “in large part” to Cullen’s contract breaches. They contend that Cullen’s lawsuit and the withdrawal from Toronto have had a negative impact on its domestic distribution prospects, as well as foreign revenues.

Cullen’s attorney could not immediately be reached.

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The movie, based on a Martin Amis novel, stars Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton and Jason Isaacs.

“This case symbolizes a real sad turn in the culture of independent cinema,” producer Chris Hanley said in a statement. “With decades of filmmaking and 40 films below my producer’s belt, I am witnessing how the new media and independent movie making is takings its cues right out from the studio system it purports to be independent of, where media and festivals are made vulnerable to, and in many cases are bought out by pure Hollywood power, and where law takes place in the media like a new form of entertainment.”

According to Cullen’s lawsuit, the producers interjected elements into the movie that included “imagery evoking 9/11 jumpers edited against pornography, as well as juxtaposing the holiest city in Islam against mind control.”

But a spokesman for Hanley says that no such scene is in the producer’s cut of the movie and the allegation in Cullen’s lawsuit “is totally false and malicious.”

Cullen’s lawsuit claims that the producers breached their agreement by refusing to pay him full compensation, refusing to provide three cuts and three public screenings of the movie and refusing to produce the movie as a DGA film. He also contends that they failed to provide the funding to properly produce the film.

But in their cross complaint, the producers claim that Cullen failed to promote the producer’s cut of the movie, made because of a”lack of responsibility” on Cullen’s part, according to a statement from Hanley.

The cross complaint also alleges intentional interference with the contracts of cast members in the movie, alleging that Cullen encouraged them “not to perform post-production and promotional services” and jeopardized distribution and sales at the Toronto fest.

Their cross-complaint alleges that Cullen induced actors to breach their contracts, including obligations to perform ADR, to promote the movie and to make disparaging remarks to third parties.

The producers are seeking damages in excess of $10 million.

Update: Cullen’s attorney, Alex Weingarten of Venable LLP, issued this statement Thursday night:

“The cross-complaint filed by Nicola Six is a desperate and unfortunately expected effort to distract attention away from the tortious conduct of Chris Hanley and Jordan Gertner. It is a fictional representation of the actual facts replete with demonstrably false lies. Mr. Cullen is an artist who is just trying to make a movie. He made every effort to resolve this dispute without the need to resort to litigation but now looks forward to his day in Court.”