×

Mel Gibson Loses Bid to Block Release of ‘Professor and the Madman’

Mel Gibson has lost a key round in his battle for control of “The Professor and the Madman,” potentially clearing the way for the release of the star-crossed film about the origins of a dictionary.

The picture is based on Simon Winchester’s book about the collaboration between Professor James Murray and William Minor, an inmate in a mental asylum, to create the Oxford English Dictionary. Gibson has long wanted to produce the film, and in 2015 struck a production deal with Voltage Pictures.

The film was shot in late 2016, with Gibson playing the professor and Sean Penn in the role of the madman. But late in the production, shooting came to a standstill when Gibson and director Farhad Safinia insisted that certain scenes be shot in Oxford, England, instead of Trinity College in Dublin. Voltage CEO Nicolas Chartier refused, arguing that the film was already over budget and behind schedule. Efforts to resolve the conflict failed, and Gibson and Safinia walked off the production, according to legal filings.

Gibson’s company, Icon Productions, sued Voltage last year, alleging that the company had reneged on its deal by refusing to allow Safinia to complete the film. Gibson also sought to block Chartier from screening Voltage’s cut of the film for potential distributors. Voltage countered that Safinia had turned in a cut that was two hours and 40 minutes long, well over the two-hour runtime required by their agreement. The producer also claimed that shooting the additional scenes at Oxford would have added 20 minutes to the runtime at a cost of $2.5 million.

Popular on Variety

Gibson’s lawyers asked Judge Ruth Kwan to find that Voltage had violated the deal and turn the rights over to him. On Tuesday, Kwan refused, finding that Gibson’s allegations did not amount to a breach.

“Plaintiff did not submit admissible evidence showing the existence of an actual controversy with Defendants,” Kwan wrote.

The contract required that issues such as shooting locations and the budget were subject to mutual approval between Voltage and Gibson. But Kwan noted there are exceptions to that rule, such as if Gibson were in breach of the agreement, or if Gibson’s actions posed unreasonable obstacles to releasing the film.

The ruling gives Voltage the upper hand, and will make it much harder for Gibson to block the film’s release. However, at this point, it does not appear that Safinia or Gibson will help to market the film, which would limit its commercial potential. Voltage has said the film cost $25 million to produce.

Voltage Ruling by gmaddaus on Scribd

More Film

  • CNC Chief Outlines Plan to Update

    CNC Chief Outlines Plan to Update French Production Infrastructure

    Speaking at an industry round-table at the Paris-based Production Forum on Thursday, Dominique Boutonnat, president of France’s National Film Board (CNC), announced a new plan to update local production studios in order to make them more internationally competitive. The modest plan, which involves new funding, training sessions and additional research, follows a March 2019 report, [...]

  • Bait

    ‘Bait’ Director Mark Jenkin Sets Next Feature With Film4

    Writer-director Mark Jenkin, whose feature debut “Bait” was nominated for two BAFTAs last week, has set his next project, “Enys Men” (“Stone Island”), with Film4. Jenkin will direct from his own script. Denzil Monk is producing for Bosena. Johnny Fewings is executive producing, with Kate Byers and Linn Waite as associate producers. Film4 will co-finance the [...]

  • CineAsia

    CineAsia Turns its Back on Hong Kong

    CineAsia, the long-running convention for the film exhibition and distribution sectors, has ditched Hong Kong, its home for the past decade. It was forced to cancel the 2019 edition in December, due to the political unrest in the city. New York-based organizer, the Film Expo Group, announced on Friday by email that the 2020 edition [...]

  • Mama Weed

    New Films With Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Omar Sy Unspool at UniFrance Rendez-Vous

    Showcasing the wide scope and many nuances of French comedies, Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Lost Prince,” “Mama Weed” with Isabelle Huppert (pictured), “The Lion” with Dany Boon, and “Welcome to the Jungle” with Catherine Deneuve are having their market premieres at the 22nd edition of the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, which [...]

  • VHYes

    'VHYes': Film Review

    Its slim premise involving a couple of 13-year-old boys having fun with a camcorder in the late ’80s, “VHYes” is maybe a little too faithful to their sensibility — being exactly what a kid raised on “Saturday Night Live,” “SCTV,” and maybe cable broadcasts of “Kentucky Fried Movie” would imagine as the coolest home-made movie [...]

  • The Wave

    'The Wave': Film Review

    A sort of “After Hours” update with a lot more drugs and time ellipses, “The Wave” throws Justin Long down a rabbit’s hole of sometimes hallucinatory, sometimes mortal peril when his button-down protagonist makes the mistake of celebrating a career breakthrough a little too adventurously. This surreal comedy from debuting feature director Gille Klabin and [...]

  • Jon Bernthal'Baby Driver' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Film News Roundup: Jon Bernthal Joins Williams Sisters' Tennis Drama 'King Richard'

    In today’s film news roundup, Jon Bernthal is cast in “King Richard,” FilmFreeway sets a Toronto Film Festival deal and “Phoenix, Oregon” gets distribution. CASTING Jon Bernthal is in talks to star as tennis coach Rick Macci in Warner Bros.’ “King Richard” opposite Will Smith. Reinaldo Marcus Green is directing the drama, written by Zach [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content