David Siegel, the timeshare mogul whose attempt to build the biggest house in America is chronicled in "The Queen of Versailles," is hitting back at the makers of the documentary, claiming that they misrepresented the financial health of his company.
In promotional materials, the documentary is described as a "rags-to-riches-to rags story," that tells how Siegel and his wife, Jackie, are burned by the economic collapse of 2008, forcing them to abandon their dreams of constructing an ornate 90,000-square-foot Florida mansion.
The mansion is still under construction, but Siegel says that his company has recovered from the credit crunch.
In a letter sent Monday to Martin Garbus, an attorney for director Lauren Greenfield, Siegel argues that not only is his company Westgate Resorts doing well, it's the most profitable it has been in its 32-year history. The real estate tycoon is asking the filmmakers to clear up any misconceptions with 26 words added to the film's existing post-script.
"It's about being fair and accurate to the Company I built — Westgate Resorts — and the more than 5,000 dedicated employees who work for us," Siegel writes.
"The Queen of Versailles" is set to premiere in limited release on July 20.
Likening the current ending, which gives the impression that Westgate is in dire straits, to "ending an account of a basketball game after the third quarter," he adds, "What we are actually asking for is incredibly easy, would cost nothing for Lauren and her distributors, and would not compromise Lauren's artistic integrity one bit."
The note was also sent to Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, the owners of the film's distributor Magnolia Pictures, and company president Eamonn Bowles. Because the film's TV rights were acquired by Bravo, Siegel copied Bravo President Frances Berwick and NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke, the head of the network's parent company.
The film and its depiction of the Siegels as conspicuous consumers is currently the subject of a legal fight. Siegel has sued Greenfield, executive producer Frank Evers, Bravo and Magnolia in U.S. District Court in Florida, alleging defamation for claiming that his company did not pay its bills.
Attorneys for the defendants have filed a motion to stay the legal action, arguing that Siegel signed release forms that require that any disputes undergo arbitration.
As in his suit, Siegel's letter contains accusations that many of the film's most outrageous scenes — such as those depicting Jackie Siegel riding a speedboat in a fur coat or going to McDonald's in a limo — were staged.
"[Greenfield] didn't hesitate to orchestrate unrealistic over-the-top scenes for entertainment purposes even when they vastly distorted day-to-day life," Siegel writes. "That's why what you call a documentary, I call a Real Housewives of Orlando pilot."
Siegel also says that Greenfield is incorrect in stating that the mansion is in foreclosure and essentially abandoned, as the couple was able to refinance and has started construction again.
In a statement to TheWrap, Garbus said that the film will not be changed and does not distort the truth.
"The Queen of Versailles is a wonderful film by an extraordinary documentary filmmaker. It is told honestly and truthfully," Garbus said. "It tells a story about a time in America and everybody should see it and make their own judgement. Nothing in The Queen of Versailles is staged. There is no reason to update the film.”