With just four days to go before the Academy Awards, Crash financier Bob Yari was last nightengaging in a legal snowstorm over his official role on the picture andbusiness dealings with former associates Cathy Schulman and Tom Nunan.
Yesterday evening Yari filed a suit with the Los Angeles SuperiorCourt against the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Academy of MotionPictures Arts & Sciences asserting what he claims to be his rightful statusas a producer on Crash.
Meanwhile Bull's Eye Entertainmentpartners and former Yari associates Cathy Schulman and Tom Nunan filed suitagainst Yari and several of his companies and associates alleging, among otherthings, fraud, unpaid fees, breach of contract and tortuous interference withprospective economic advantages.
Hollywood awoke to the sound of thundering hooves on Wednesday asYari took out full-page adverts in the local trade press decrying a decision inwhich an Academy committee upheld a PGA ruling that rendered him ineligible asproducer of Paul Haggis' acclaimed ensemble drama.
The PGA refused to give Yari a producer credit for its own awardsin January and upheld the ruling following a recent appeal. The real estatemogul was further incensed when the Academy, which now follows PGA accreditationrulings when it decides who gets the Oscar producer credit, upheld the PGA'sdecision in a confidential meeting of its producers branch headed up by PGAchair Kathleen Kennedy.
Yari, who claims he satisfies 35 of the PGA's 46 qualifyingproducing functions, took umbrage over the outcome of the hearings and the factthat both the reasons for refusal and the identity of those who heard the caseremain confidential. Denied the producer status, Yari will not be able tocollect the Academy Award on Sunday should Crash win the best picture Oscar.
Demanding greater transparency in guild and Academy hearings,Yari's suit alleges wrongful denial of right of fair procedure, breach of fiduciaryduty, and breach of implied contract. An excerpt of the claim read: "Evenin the abstract, the procedures of the Producers Guild of America are patentlyunfair. But this case is not about abstractions. It is about Bob Yari, an extraordinaryfilmmaker who has produced an extraordinary motion picture, Crash."
While a spokesperson said the Academy did not comment on impendinglegal action, the PGA's executive director Vance Van Petten said: "We haveevery confidence in the fairness of our procedures and look forward to thecourt upholding our process."
In a dramatically-worded legal suit of their own, Schulman andNunan claim their case "arises from the dark underbelly of Hollywood"and brand Yari a "film school graduate and failed motion picture director".
They allege among other things that Yari, who came aboard Bull'sEye as financier and partner in late 2002, furthered his own interests, cutthem out of profit participation, and delayed projects by diverting funds intonon-Bull's Eye productions. Further the claim alleges that Yari damagedSchulman's reputation by firing her as producer on another picture, The Illusionist, days before its world premiere atSundance in January.
The estimated damages claimed by the plaintiffs exceed $2m andthey assert full ownership of Bull's Eye and the trademark, and seek punitivedamages.
In a statement released to the press last night, Yari said:"This lawsuit is a shameful misrepresentation of the facts concerning my partnershipwith Schulman and Noonan. This action reinforces a consistent pattern oflitigious behavior by Ms Schulman, which can be documented via public recordswith regard to her past professional relationships in the film andentertainment industry."
Schulman andNunan's gambit follows a suit filed against them by Yari last December in whichhe alleges Schulman took unjustified credit for producing Crash and interfered with business matters on TheIllusionist. Yari alsoalleges the pair took money that he was partly entitled to receive from anoverhead deal Bull's Eye set up with Sony Pictures Television.