Two production companies are asking a judge to dismiss a screenwriter’s lawsuit stemming from a dispute over film credits for the upcoming James Caan-Pierce Brosnan crime drama “Fast Charlie,” saying the plaintiff’s case infringes on the defendants’ First Amendment rights.
Plaintiff Lee Goldberg and his company, Adventures in Television, brought the lawsuit July 15 in Los Angeles Superior Court against Boomtown Media Partners LLC and Fast Charlie Nola LLC, alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory relief.
Goldberg, who has written for such television shows as “Psych,” “Monk,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Baywatch and “Spenser: For Hire,” entered a written contract in March 2021 through his company with Boomtown Media to obtain the option to acquire the motion picture, television and ancillary rights to “Gun Monkeys,” a screenplay authored by Goldberg based on the Victor Gischler novel of the same title, the suit states.
The contract states that all monies due Goldberg’s company were to be paid to Goldberg if a film was made based on “Gun Monkeys” along with credits in the main titles, home video packaging and other areas, according to the suit.
Goldberg believes Boomtown assigned its rights to FCN, which in April began shooting “Fast Charlie,” a movie based on “Gun Monkeys,” but the plaintiff was not paid the agreed-upon purchase price or provided through his company the first opportunity to make any required revisions to the “Gun Monkeys” screenplay, the suit states.
But according to the defense’s dismissal motion brought Monday, both the book and the film are topics of widespread public interest.
“Therefore, there is a clear and direct connection between defendants’ alleged use of the Goldberg script and topics of widespread public interest, including the book, the film, the film’s screenwriter and Caan’s passing,” the defense lawyers argue in their court papers. “As such, defendants have satisfied their burden to show that plaintiffs’ claims arise from conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of … free speech.”
Goldberg did not have the rights to make a derivative work of the book; rather the defendants had the rights to make a screenplay and motion picture based on the book, according to the defense’s court papers.
Dan Grodnick, producer of “Fast Charlie,” says in a sworn statement in support of the dismissal motion that when presented with the Goldberg script, a number of prominent actors declined to participate in the film, including Viggo Mortenson, Alicia Vikander, Chris Pine, Gerard Butler, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Keanu Reeves, Mark Wahlberg, Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Rene Russo and Michael Douglas.
Bryan Cranston “saw potential in the lead character, Charlie Swift, but was not interested in the Goldberg script as written,” Grodnick says.
“Without the commitment of a major talent like Mr. Cranston to the film, the film simply could not be financed,” according to Grodnick.
When a new and significantly different script was presented that included Cranston’s input, Brosnan agreed to come aboard and eventually Caan also was recruited, Grodnick says.
A hearing on the production companies’ dismissal motion is scheduled Oct. 28 before Judge Mark V. Mooney.
“Fast Charlie” finished production in New Orleans, but has not yet been released. Goldberg and his company want a preliminary injunction stopping the defendants from making “Fast Charlie” available to the public until a determination is made regarding the plaintiffs’ rights to writing and co-producer credits, according to the suit, which also seeks compensatory damages.
“Fast Charlie” focuses on Brosnan’s character, Charlie Swift, who toiled for mob figure Caan for two decades and seeks to avenge Caan’s death, which is brought about by a rival boss.
Caan died July 6 at age 82 and was known for playing in films as varied as “The Godfather” and “Thief” as well as “Brian’s Song.”