For years, Ryan Wiik yearned to play Morgan Kane, a hero of Norwegian cowboy fiction. He acquired the rights to the 83 novels in the Kane series, penned in the ’60s and ’70s by author Kjell Halbing, and then spent years preparing for the role of the Wild West gunslinger.
But according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in L.A. Superior Court, Wiik was thrown off the project in December after being betrayed by his company’s CEO. The suit — which reads more like “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” than a Western — accuses the CEO, Tasmin Lucia-Khan, of seducing him and manipulating him in order to gain power and a larger share of the profits from “Morgan Kane.”
In an interview, Lucia-Khan called the allegations “defamation” and “insulting.”
“I think it’s very uncool to kind of pull the seduction card,” she said. “I pride myself on getting the jobs I wanted through hard work. We just had International Women’s Day. I’m not going to be belittled by an unknown actor saying these things about me.”
The story began in 2011, when Wiik, who is from Norway, announced that he had formed WR Entertainment and acquired rights to the Kane novels, which sold 11 million copies in Norway. Wiik said he would be selling foreign rights to the project at that year’s Cannes Film Festival, and expected to begin shooting later in the year.
However, the project lingered without sufficient financing for several years. In October 2015, Wiik sought to raise money by taking the company public on the Norwegian stock exchange. According to the suit, Norwegian law requires that the board be at least 40% female. So Wiik met with Lucia-Khan, a former BBC news anchor, and invited her to join the board. On a trip to Norway to meet with investors, Wiik alleges that Lucia-Khan seduced him “with the intention of manipulating Wiik into placing her into a position of power within WR.”
Lucia-Khan was offered the positions of VP of public relations and chief operating officer, but turned them both down, according to the suit. The lawsuit contends that Wiik pushed for her to become CEO “after weeks of sexual and emotional manipulation by Khan.” His partners agreed, and Lucia-Khan was awarded a $200,000 salary.
Lucia-Khan declined to comment on the nature of their relationship, but did state that she was awarded the CEO position by the entire board of directors.
“Nothing gets moved without board approval,” she said. “I was voted in unanimously. Did I seduce all the shareholders?”
WR went public on the Norwegian stock exchange in January 2016. Afterward, Wiik alleges that Lucia-Khan began to meet with investors and tighten her grip on the company, negotiating to boost her salary to $250,000 along with options to buy 6 million shares.
Wiik also contends that Lucia-Khan sought to freeze him out of the company, trashing him behind his back and claiming to members of the board that Wiik had provided prostitutes to prospective investors. She also began to demand script changes, Wiik alleges, and required Wiik to do a screen test to determine if he was truly right for the role.
Wiik states that he had been preparing for the role for years, and had begun working with a stunt trainer. The suit claims that Lucia-Khan told the trainer that it had already been decided that Wiik would fail the screen test.
All the while, Lucia-Khan and Wiik continued their affair, the lawsuit states. According to the suit, Lucia-Khan made videos of their sexual encounters on her phone, and flew into jealous rages, demanding that he refrain from doing kissing scenes in rehearsals. She also told him she was impressed with his strength and abilities.
Meanwhile, Wiik alleges that Lucia-Khan was secretly working to oust him from the project. Wiik alleges that he was given revised script pages, which called for him to appear drunk, and told him that he would need to do a screen test three days later. Wiik maintains that this was insufficient time, but was forced to go through with it anyway. The suit claims that Lucia-Khan then used the screen test to badmouth Wiik to others at the company.
Wiik also contends that employees of the company broke into his storage units while he was out of the country and stole financial documents. Wiik accuses Lucia-Khan of using those documents to accuse him of insider trading and securities violations.
In December, Wiik alleges that Lucia-Khan demanded that he resign. “Devastated, entirely out of energy, and at one of the lowest points in his life, Wiik agreed to sign the resignation letter,” the suit states.
Lucia-Khan, however, said that Wiik left voluntarily.
“He’s just upset,” she said. “I feel he regretted resigning. He left for creative differences. No one forced him out at all… I don’t think it’s news. It’s an unknown actor who wants a bit of publicity. Have you heard of him? No.”
His departure from the project made headlines in Norway.
Lucia-Khan said the project is moving forward, and that screenwriter Skip Woods is working on a new draft. So far, the lead role has not been recast.
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