On Sunday night, James Franco’s The Disaster Artist will be contending for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards, but a newly unearthed lawsuit will do its best to challenge the validity of that nomination.
Ryan Moody, a former acting student of Franco’s, is suing the actor’s Rabbit Bandini Productions and Seth Rogan’s Point Grey Pictures, claiming breach of contract in reference to both an uncredited screenwriting role on The Disaster Artist and a promised associate producer credit that failed to materialize. Moody’s suit claims that while he was working as an unofficial teaching assistant for a class taught by Franco at UCLA, the actor “invited him to write a screen adaptation of the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room.” After completing the original screenplay, production of the resulting film moved forward, and Moody says he was then forced out of the project and denied an associate producer’s credit that he was promised. You can read the full suit here.
The suit accuses the two production companies of breach of contract, claiming they had “no intention of giving Moody an associate producer credit,” but made the claim so they would be able to buy the rights to his screenplay for “far less than market value.” That sum totaled $5,000—not a bad price for a potentially Academy Award-winning screenplay, if we do say so ourselves.
After Moody was bought out, Franco and co. brought in screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who are the pair nominated for the Oscar.
The Disaster Artist producers Rabbit Bandini, Point Grey and Good Universe have since responded with a statement, categorically denying all allegations. In fact, the response claims that Neustadter and Weber have no knowledge of Moody’s existence at all—a bit curious, given that his name was presumably on the original screenplay they were handed to rework.
“To be perfectly clear, all screenplay material created by Scott and Michael in connection with The Disaster Artist was adapted directly from the book written by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero,” says the statement. “Their incredible work, which has been repeatedly recognized by countless organizations, should not be denigrated or defamed in any manner by these specious accusations.”
However, potentially damaging to Franco’s case are the series of emails in Moody’s possession, which are included in the lawsuit. At the very least, they outline that Franco did indeed ask Moody to write an initial draft of a Disaster Artist screenplay, noting that he should turn in a draft “by the end of nov” and “watch the film,” presumably referring to Tommy Wiseau’s original The Room. According to the lawsuit, after spending “upwards of 60 hours a week” working on the project, Moody turned in his first draft of the script to Franco on Nov. 20, 2013, emailing “Please let me know when you have notes. I’m anxious to get started on the next draft.” Moody even traveled to Vancouver at Franco’s request in order to pitch the concept to Point Grey executives, including Rogen.
The suit is just the latest in a string of potential scandals for James Franco, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by five different women. One wonders if another social media firestorm will be incoming if The Disaster Artist wins the screenplay Oscar on Sunday night.