LOS ANGELES (CN) – A would-be filmmaker embezzled “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from Farrah Fawcett as she died, leaked private information about the dying actress to journalists and distributed film of her as she succumbed to cancer, without her permission, and credited it to his own production company, the trustee of her estate claims in Superior Court.
Trustee Richard Francis sued Craig J. Nevius and his company, Windmill Entertainment, on behalf of the Fawcett Living Trust and her LLC, Sweetened By Risk, which Fawcett formed to record her struggle with cancer as a documentary, which was released as “Farrah’s Story.”
On her first videotaped doctor’s visit, in May 2007, which Fawcett believed would declare her cancer-free, and which she taped so that “my news might offer some level of inspiration to others … Ms. Fawcett was informed that her cancer was back,” according to the complaint.
She died on June 25, 2009, after forming Sweetened By Risk (SBR) “to own the documentary of her medical journey and contract for its broadcast.”
The trustee claims that Nevius “and his alter ego company Windmill Entertainment LLC … ingratiated himself into the life of iconic actress Farrah Fawcett and thereby gained access to private and personal information, film footage and other material belonging to Ms. Fawcett and her company SBR.”
The complaint continues: “Mr. Nevius presented himself as a competent motion picture producer who intended to assist Ms. Fawcett and act with her best interests at heart. Mr. Nevius did not do so, but instead betrayed Ms. Fawcett’s trust by intentionally revealing private, personal information about Ms. Fawcett and her medical condition to journalists, by defrauding Ms. Fawcett into signing a purported limited liability agreement for SBR, and, on information and belief, by embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from SBR.”
The documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” “was created from raw footage of Ms. Fawcett’s medical treatment, much of which was filmed by Ms. Fawcett’s close friend Alana Stewart, who was by Ms. Fawcett’s side during treatment,” according to the complaint. The trustee says Fawcett gave Nevius and Windmill access to the raw footage so he could help produce and deliver the documentary. But Francis says Nevius’ version was “amateurish and sensationalized, and looked like tabloid journalism,” and Fawcett “adamantly did not want the documentary to be sensationalized and rejected Nevius’ cut.”
She asked her longtime partner, Ryan O’Neal, to “take control of the film,” and signed a binding legal document stating so, the trustee says. Nevius, jealous of O’Neal and Stewart, and angry, proceeded to leak film and private information to journalists, Francis says.
Among the allegations in the 16-page complaint:
that Nevius “induced” Fawcett to sign a “‘Sweetened by Risk LLC Agreement’ by telling her that her attorneys had reviewed and approved it, when they had not”;
that on April 6, 2009, without her permission, Nevius told The Associated Press that Fawcett’s cancer had metastasized to her liver, an announcement that was repeated around the globe and “caused Ms. Fawcett severe and extreme emotional distress”;
that on May 12, 2009, “in a clear and despicable attempt to harm Ms. Fawcett, Mr. Nevius told the press (again, without Ms. Fawcett’s permission, and without even attempting to speak to Ms. Fawcett beforehand) that Ms. Fawcett confidentially had communicated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding unauthorized access into her medical files by tabloid informants,” and revealed “information relating to Ms. Fawcett’s claims against the tabloids for invasion of privacy and defamation”;
that in the days before and after, and on the day of the first broadcast of “Farrah’s Story,” “Nevius distributed footage and images owned by MS. Fawcett and SBR to numerous third party media outlets, which subsequently aired the material”;
that “On the very morning of the May 15, 2009 broadcast of ‘Farrah’s Story’ on NBC, Nevius provided CNN with exclusive footage that was to appear on NBC that evening, but instead first appeared on CNN’s Web site labeled ‘courtesy (of) Windmill Entertainment LLC.'”;
that despite Fawcett’s pleas to Nevius to stop doing all this, the estate believes Nevius “plans to use that material, to which he has no rights to, to create his own, unauthorized cut of ‘Farrah’s Story'”;
that he “continues to reveal information about Ms. Fawcett to the tabloid press in exchange for payment”;
that Nevius had the brass to sue Francis, O’Neal and Stewart on May 13, 2009;
and that he “embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from SBR’s bank account.”
The trustee seeks punitive damages for fraud, misappropriation, conversion, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. He is represented by Howard Weitzman.