Original ‘Disaster Artist’ Screenwriter Claims James Franco Swindled Him

Disaster Artist James Franco BTS
Courtesy of A24/Justina Mintz

The original screenwriter on “The Disaster Artist” filed suit in L.A. Superior Court on Wednesday, claiming he was duped into selling his screenplay for just $5,000.

Ryan Moody says he was tapped by director James Franco in 2013 to adapt the book about the making of the cult film “The Room.” Moody had been a student in Franco’s film class at UCLA, and later served as his teaching assistant.

According to the suit, Moody worked full-time on the project between November 2013 and March 2014. He delivered five drafts to Franco’s company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, and Seth Rogen’s company, Point Grey Pictures, which produced the film.

In April 2014, Moody says he was told that Point Grey wanted to replace him with more established writers. Moody wanted to retain a writing credit, but Franco told him he would be credited as an associate producer. According to the suit, Franco encouraged him to work on Moody’s passion project, “On the Bus.”

“Hey,” Franco wrote in an email to Moody on April 2. “Seth and evan (Goldberg) and (James) weaver want you on as an assoc producer and to give notes on every draft. Cool? Get going on ‘on the bus,’ that’s yours.”

The suit alleges that Franco and his partners had no plan or intention of actually producing “On the Bus.” Moody alleges that he was told that the project would have a budget comparable to “The Disaster Artist,” in the range of $5-$10 million. He says he was also told that if he wanted to work with Rogen and Franco again, he would have to sign the agreement to sell the screenplay.

While he had reservations, he ultimately relented, turning over rights to the drafts for $5,000 and waiving all credit in the film, according to the suit. Only two years later was he told that “On the Bus” would have a budget of just $50,000.

“At that point, Moody realized that he had been played,” the suit alleges.

He found out that he did not receive any associate producer credit on the film only when it was released in December, according to the suit. The suit also notes there is at least one major similarity between Moody’s screenplay and the finished film. According to the suit, he wrote a climactic scene in which “Room” director Tommy Wiseau flees from the premiere, only to return in triumph once the audience’s initial derision gives way to laughter. The scene does not appear in the book, but does appear in the film.

Moody’s attorneys are seeking to rescind the purchase agreement, and to enforce an unsigned agreement by which he would have received the WGA minimum. He is also seeking damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Representatives for Rogen and Franco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ryan Moody Disaster Artist by gmaddaus on Scribd