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Scorsese sued by Cecchi Gori Pictures for movie choice

August 23, 2012|By Ben Fritz
  • Martin Scorsese is being sued for not directing the movie "Silence" this year.
Martin Scorsese is being sued for not directing the movie "Silence"… (Jay L. Clenindin )

Martin Scorsese has been sued by Cecchi Gori Pictures for choosing "The Wolf of Wall Street" over "Silence."

Cecchi Gori, the film company founded by Italian media mogul Vittorio Cecchi Gori, has been mired in financial restructuring and litigation with its former president, producer Gianni Nunnari, for the last several years.

One of its primary remaining assets was the film rights to "Silence," based on the novel by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, and contracts that the company alleges obligated the Oscar-winning Scorsese to direct the movie after finishing last year's "Hugo."

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday, Cecchi Gori claims that Scorsese is reneging on the contract. He has instead started shooting "The Wolf of Wall Street," which stars Leonardo DiCaprio in a story of mob-fueled securities fraud in the 1990s.

"It came as a surprise to us that 'Wolf of Wall Street' was next on the agenda," Cecchi Gori chief executive Niels Juul said in an interview. "We have asked for clarification for a while and haven't gotten a response. Sadly it seems that in Hollywood you can't get a response until you file a lawsuit."

According to the complaint, Cecchi Gori has been asking Scorsese and his production company Sikelia Productions, which is also named as a defendant, about the issue for two months, but has not received a response.

Cecchi Gori claims it has spent $750,000 developing "Silence," about Portuguese missionaries sent to Japan in 1683 to investigate claims of the torture of Christians by the emperor, based on assurances that Scorsese would direct it.

Scorsese first began talking to Gori about directing "Silence" in the 1980s, according to the lawsuit. However, the project kept being put aside for other priorities. As part of a settlement related to the film that Cecchi Gori and Scorsese agreed to earlier this year, the director allegedly agreed to start production on "Silence" by the end of 2012.

In addition to breach of contract for not starting work on "Silence," the lawsuit claims Scorsese and Sikelia owe Cecchi Gori $1.5 million, plus 20% of all "back-end" compensation received by the director, related to "Hugo." Under a 2004 agreement with Nunnari, Scorsese allegedly agreed to pay that amount because he made the adaptation of the children's book ahead of "Silence."

The lawsuit accuses Scorsese and Sikelia of two counts of breach of written contract, intentional misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation.

Damages should be determined at trial, the complaint states, but Juul said he does not want to take the case that far.

"We're hoping to resolve it amicably," he said. "Our hope is to see 'Silence' get made."

A spokeswoman for Scorsese did not respond to a request for comment.

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