Producers claim that the studio torpedoed the production of an animated film and tried to pay them hush money
Updated at 5:10 pm PST:
An attorney for The Weinstein Company said that they would countersue Protocol Pictures for the $500,000.
"The studio paid them because they said they were going to go public with horrendously false accusations," said Weinstein attorney Bert Fields. "They held off. Now they've sued. So we will sue them out here to get back the money, as well as money paid for producing and directing services."
Fields said that the director and producer declined to follow the directions of The Weinstein Company, and had to be replaced. The suit will seek to reclaim that money.
Protocol Pictures has sued the Weinstein Company for $50 million in damages, claiming that the studio torpedoed the release of the animated film "Escape from Planet Earth."
In a suit filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court, writer and director Tony Leech and producer Brian Inerfeld also claim that the studio paid them $500,000 in hush money so the story wouldn't come out before the Academy Awards.
"The facts show that the Weinsteins are a real life version of Bialystock & Bloom (from the film and show 'The Producers') in that they in essence sold more than 100% of the film," the suit reads.
Delayed for over a year, "Escape" has never been released theatrically.
In a written statement, the Weinstein's lawyer called the lawsuit "completely frivolous."
Bert Fields said that "the pleading contains little more than false, gratuitous, slanderous, preposterous and totally irrelevant personal attacks on TWC and its principals. Plaintiffs were let go after they refused to make the picture which TWC wanted. They were paid in excess of $2,000,000 which is what was called for by their contract. They then threatened to 'go public' with false assertions about TWC's principals unless they were paid money to which they were not entitled. Their conduct has been unethical and reprehensible. I can't wait to get them under oath."
Inerfeld and Leech previously worked with the Weinstein Company on the animated film "Hoodwinked," which grossed more than $110 million worldwide on a $15 million budget.
This time, the collaboration did not go as planned. Among other misdeeds, Protocol claims that the Weinsteins locked the film's script, overspent on production, gave contradictory script notes and paid talent such as Kevin Bacon thousands of dollars to not appear in the film.
Inerfeld and Leech say they repeatedly urged the studio to shut down production, but that they were treated with derision by studio chief Harvey Weinstein.
At the same time, without any film being shot, the studio promised away rights to potential profits to other investors that had been allotted to the producers.
In addition, the filmmakers claim the Weinsteins breached contracts on future film projects such as "Fraggle Rock" and "Dragons."