Ever been so angry with your film studio that you ended up suing them midway through the production of an overbudget film that you also happen to be starring in?
No? Well then, you probably don’t know quite how it feels to be Mel Gibson right now. He and director Farhad Safinia (who previously wrote the script for Gibson’s Apocalypto) are currently suing Voltage Pictures thanks to a dispute that has grown out of the film they’re making, The Professor and the Madman.
The film is an American-Irish historical drama that revolves around the creation and curation of the original Oxford English Dictionary. To quote the tagline: “The film is about a professor who in 1857 began compiling the OED and led the overseeing committee and a doctor who submitted over 10,000 entries when he was a convict at an asylum for the criminally insane.”
Gibson is playing James Murray, the primary editor of the dictionary, while Sean Penn is playing the titular madman. However, Gibson is now alleging that Voltage violated its agreement with the actor, which supposedly gives Gibson approval over the final cut of the film. He claims Voltage did so by not allowing director Safinia to oversee additional reshooting to complete a new cut of the film.
Voltage, on the other hand, has countered by saying that Safinia and Gibson’s slow pace had already sent the film more than $1.3 million over budget, and that the pair wants another $2.5 million tacked onto that budget for additional days of shooting at Oxford University. All this, while the film is already well over its allotted running time, with 40 minutes to an hour still needing to be trimmed. As a result, the entire production sounds like a nightmare at the moment.
Complicating things even further is the fact that Safinia apparently had been working on the film without a contract this whole time, according to Variety:
According to Chartier, Safinia was offered the directing job in August 2016, two months before shooting was to begin, for a fee of $200,000. Safinia’s lawyer responded two days before principal photography was to begin, asking for $275,000. Voltage stood firm at $200,000. Safinia’s lawyer responded via email: “Hmmmmm. Okay. We will chat on our end.” Safinia showed up to direct the film.
Ah yes, the old “show up and hope that you eventually get paid what you want to be paid” technique. A classic.
This leaves us with Saifinia and Gibson trying to block the release of the film, which was supposed to be out before the end of 2017, and Voltage presumably trying to release it. We’ll keep an eye on The Professor and the Madman with curiosity, if it ever comes to light.