Three of Mexico’s most prominent directors — Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Amat Escalante — and actor-producer Diego Luna, who also has some directing gigs under his belt, have been the latest targets of a scammer that sends out missives in their names to relatively unknown writers, promising them movie deals in exchange for rights to their books or screenplays.
The ongoing scam has been persisting for at least two years, said Escalante. According to the blog Writer Beware, which has detailed the extent of these scams and displays screenshots of the letters, Diego Luna was the latest to be targeted on Jan. 11. He has not responded to requests for comment.
In August 2022, Cuaron tweeted a warning to his followers saying:
“I am the real Alfonso Cuarón. Sadly, I want to warn of a scammer who is pretending to be me by sending messages like: ‘Project Movie Deal,’ to get people to finance a fake project. Please do not pay any money or respond to this person.”
Escalante said his lawyer even sent a cease and desist email but the response was: “Call me and I’ll stop. You know my number.”
However, Escalante’s L.A.-based manager Ilene Feldman said they didn’t call the impostor as they didn’t want to engage with him.
Feldman’s office was contacted by at least ten writers who had received emails from the same impostor. In his letter to potential victims, he used multiple Gmail accounts, followed by as many as three telephone numbers, including one in the U.K.
According to one author, she actually received a call from a U.K. number.
Feldman’s office spoke several times to a woman whose mother was being contacted by the culprit last month, but they managed to alert her in time for her to cease contact before any money changed hands.
They still don’t know how or if he has profited from these scams.
The template of these missives, with some variations, runs the same:
My name is __I am a Mexican Film Director of the movie __________
Your book ________reached my office and it was recommended by Hollywood Movie Agents that this material suits the International Film.
We have seen great potential with your masterpiece and it has been evaluated by our Literary Agents. We’ve been in the Film Industry for more than 20 years and we have strong connections ins and outs of the arena, our partner Film Production Companies like Warner Bros. Picture, Lionsgate, Searchlight, Paramount and Netflix are looking for unique stories like yours that we can use for entertainment. We are willing to buy your Movie Rights if you qualify.
Call me at __________or ___ so we can discuss further.”
“They’re playing with peoples time, money and dreams; I just want this to stop,” said Escalante. “99 percent may know it’s a scam but there’s always that 1% who might not,” he added.
Del Toro, whose stop motion animated “Pinocchio” recently took home the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature and is nominated for an Oscar, declined to comment, but tweeted on Jan. 27:
“Please do not fall for scams advertising meetings, classes, conferences of material form people pretending to be, or represent, me or any directors unless they come from their official channels, – such as this – and you can verify them.”