Director of Unreleased Mel Gibson Movie Sues Producer for Defamation

Farhad Safinia Sues Voltage Pictures over
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The legal fight over “The Professor and the Madman,” the unreleased Mel Gibson film about a dictionary, is heating up, with the director filing a defamation suit against the production company.

Director Farhad Safinia, who wrote the script for Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” filed a suit in Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday accusing Voltage Pictures of defamation and copyright infringement.

Gibson sued Voltage in July, alleging that the company had breached the agreement giving Gibson approval of the final cut of the film. Gibson also alleged that Voltage had not budgeted adequate production days in Oxford, England, which he argued was essential to telling the story of the composition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The L.A. Times followed up with a story about the dispute, in which Voltage issued a statement saying that “Mr. Gibson and the film’s director consistently failed to live up to their professional and contractual responsibilities to Voltage.”

Safinia is now suing over that statement, saying that he did comport himself professionally, and that he never had a contract to live up to. Gibson’s suit also alleged that Safinia never had a contract.

“Defendants intentionally made and published the false and defamatory statement with actual malice, knowledge of, and/or reckless disregard as to the falsity of those statements because Defendants knew Mr. Safinia has in fact lived up to all his professional responsibilities to Defendants. Moreover, no contract was concluded or signed by Mr. Safinia, on the one hand, and Defendants, on the other,” the suit states. “Thus, the assertion Mr. Safinia ‘consistently failed to live up to’ his ‘contractual responsibilities to Voltage’ is demonstratively and patently false.”

Likewise, Safinia accuses Voltage of making use of his screenplay of “The Professor and the Madman” “without authorization, consent, permission, or license,” and is thus suing for copyright infringement.

In a demurrer to the Gibson complaint, Voltage argues that Gibson cannot sue because he has not been harmed by the alleged breach of the agreement.

“The benefit of the contract was to create a movie that was based on the Simon Winchester book ‘The Professor and the Madman,’ and directed by Farhad Safinia,” Voltage’s attorneys wrote. “Plaintiffs have alleged that such a movie was created, and thus Plaintiff received the benefit of the bargain.”

Gibson’s suit alleges that Voltage showed portions of the film at the Cannes Film Festival, and has been showing the film to audiences in L.A. County, in violation of their agreement.

Farhad Safinia by gmaddaus on Scribd