The contentious legal saga behind the upcoming release of animated feature Escape from Planet Earth has taken another turn. THR reports that Bob and Harvey Weinstein will now host a private screening of the film for the men suing them, Brian Inerfeld and Tony Leech. If all goes well, perhaps the $50 million dollar lawsuit at the heart of the case can be settled without any more acrimony.
The animated feature, which is about an alien prison break, languished in development hell for years. Inerfeld and Leech, the plaintiffs, claim this is because the Weinsteins are “two out-of-control movie executives ... who sabotaged what should have been a highly profitable movie through a potent combination of hubris, incompetence, profligate spending and contempt for contractual obligations."
The duo initially agreed to terms with the Weinsteins to make Escape from Planet Earth – a deal that included a stipulation that the plaintiffs would receive at least 20% of the backend profits – which were estimated at $50 million.
As time went on, the Weinsteins reportedly rejected Leech’s script numerous times (he claims he completed 17 rewrites…) and allegedly paid star Kevin Bacon to walk away from the film. As production costs spiraled out of control, the Weinsteins also allegedly mortgaged the rights to the project and told Inerfeld and Leech that they’d have to give up their backend gross percentage if they wanted the film to get made.
It gets even more tawdry if you believe the claims that the Weinsteins offered both men $500,000 in “hush money” to keep them quiet during the run up to the 2011 awards season (the Weinsteins were pushing The King’s Speech that year). The duo sued anyway.
In the meantime, the Weinsteins have moved ahead with production on Escape from Planet Earth – announcing that the film will release next August and will be directed by Cal Brunker. In hopes of making the lawsuit go away, they’ve arranged to screen the rough cut of the film for Inerfeld and Leech so the duo can see it and decide if they want to claim credits for what remains of their work. This is apparently the first step toward a settlement, but THR’s sources say there’s little chance of the parties reaching an agreement.
Meanwhile, the Weinsteins' defense calls the duo “vindictive Hollywood talent” and asserts that what Leech turned in was not in feature film shape – necessitating delays, increased expenses, and one would assume, a change in the terms of the contract.
It remains to be seen how all of this will finally play out, but we expect to hear some very interesting comments once this screening takes place. Expect more news on the sordid tale of Escape from Planet Earth in the not too distant future.