Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore reportedly suing Harvey and Bob Weinstein, accusing the brothers of using "Hollywood accounting tricks" and "financial deception" to cheat him out of at least $2.7 million in profits from his documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The provocative documentarian filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday claiming that the Weinsteins and an affiliated entity called the Fellowship Adventure Group agreed to divide the film's profits equally, but Moore claims that a significant portion of the profits were diverted to hide them from him. Moore also left open the possibility of pursuing further damages in the future once a thorough audit of the film's profits is completed.
The 2004 political film grossed an estimated $222 million worldwide ($119 million in the U.S.) and presented a tale of paranoia, fear uncertainty and false patriotism following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Moore's hypothesis, the George W. Bush administration used the public's emotional vulnerability to launch a false war on Iraq instead of pursuing those responsible for deaths on 9/11.
According to the suit, Moore claims to have "discovered substantial irregularities in the accounting" that resulted in a "gross underpayment to [Moore]."
Attorney Bert Fields, who is representing the Weinsteins, told the LA Times Monday that Moore's claims are "just designed for the media and are utter rubbish." He also speculated that Oscar-season rivals may have had a hand in the lawsuit. "I'm suspicious of the timing of this in this pre-award period and really wonder who put him up to it," Fields said, acknowledging he had "no hard evidence." The Weinsteins' drama, "The King's Speech," is up for this year's top award.
But Moore's attorney, Larry Stein, dismissed the notion that the suit had anything to do with the year's big awards ceremony. "Michael has no dog in the race -- he doesn't even have a film this year," Stein said Monday afternoon. "We've been trying to work on a settlement for six months, long before 'King's Speech' was ever up for a nomination. Michael's been very patient, but at some point you can't just keep waiting."
"This is the first time Michael Moore has ever sued anyone in his 20-year career as a filmmaker. That should be some indication about how serious this is," Stein added.
But the Weinsteins claim that all discussions of finances were concluded months ago and that Moore's lawsuit is without merit. According to Fields, Moore had been paid nearly $20 million for the film and has "received every dime he's entitled to."
Moore is represented by William Morris Endeavor agent Ari Emanuel, the brother of former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. A spokesman for the agency announced Monday afternoon, however, that the agent would not be commenting on the lawsuit.