By Eriq Gardner
On the brink of releasing his latest film in a legendary career, director James Ivory is being sued by an associate who claims he was pushed out of a producer's role.
"The City of Your Final Destination" marks Ivory's first effort since his long-time collaborator, producer Ismail Merchant, died in 2005. For more than 40 years, Merchant Ivory was a famous brand in art-house cinema, releasing more than 20 films, usually period pieces starring top British actors.
When Merchant died, work had already begun on the film. According to a story
in The New York Times
a couple weeks ago, two longtime collaborators, Richard Hawley and Paul Bradley, stepped into Merchant's shoes before "the film got hung up between promised bank loans and a budget that the banks and the completion-bond company could agree on."
Now we can report that Hawley is suing Ivory and his production companies in New York Supreme Court, making startling allegations that further inform what might have happened behind the scenes of this film.
In the lawsuit
, Hawley says he entered into a contract in 2006 to act as a producer on the film. The following year, he says he performed his duties, ensuring all costs and expenses related to "The City of Your Final Destination" were paid. He says he never received his fee for doing that.
In July 2007, for reasons not disclosed, Hawley says he was barred from showing up at the editing offices and removed as a member of the board of directors of City Productions, which at the time was Ivory's vehicle for making the film. Later, Hawley says his producer credit was revoked.
Then, in order to complete financing and get a completion bond on the film, rights were transferred to another entity, St. Pancras, Inc., which essentially gets to enjoy revenue from the film while allegedly shutting out some of the shareholders of City Productions, including Hawley. According to the complaint, "Pancras is a company formed for no other reason but to allow a stripping of assets to avoid ongoing obligations of City Productions," including money owed to certain individuals who worked on the film.
Hawley also accuses Ivory and his companies of misrepresenting themselves to financiers by convincing them he waived his producer's fee in order to get a completion bond. He also implies in the complaint that his signature was forged on documents.
Claiming a fraudulent transfer, Hawley is suing to prevent the transfer of rights to Pancras, owed fees and expenses, and further relief.
We're reaching out to Ivory for comment on the suit and will update if/when we get a response. UPDATE: "It is the company’s policy not to comment on pending litigation," Merchant Ivory lawyer Stephen Nakamura tells us. "However, Merchant Ivory believes that the most recent allegations are completely without merit and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit."