LOS ANGELES (CN) – Millennium Films sued a screenwriter and the Writers Guild, claiming the Guild falsely gave him sole credit for the story and top credit for the screenplay of the 2010 movie “The Expendables,” though Sylvester Stallone was its primary writer.
Nu Image, Millennium Films, Double Life Productions and Alta Vista Productions sued David E. Callaham, Jittery Dog Productions and the Writers Guild of America West in Superior Court, alleging fraud and unjust enrichment.
Stallone is not a party to the lawsuit.
The production companies claim that a flawed 2009 Writers Guild arbitration ended with Callaham getting undeserved credit on the film, about a team of mercenaries hired to eliminate a Latin American dictator, and its sequel.
Stallone, who also directed, read Callaham’s script, “Barrow,” and based part of the story for “The Expendables” on it, according to the complaint.
“While he was writing ‘The Expendables,’ Stallone believed that Callaham might receive a shared ‘Story By’ credit for The Expendables along with Stallone, but that Stallone should be credited solely with a ‘Screenplay By’ credit,” the producers say in the lawsuit.
Because Stallone was also a production executive for the film, an automatic arbitration for screenwriting credits was warranted under Guild rules.
During arbitration, Callaham, whose film credits include 2005’s “Doom” and the upcoming “Godzilla,” sought sole “Written By” credit and claimed that he wrote the screenplay for “The Expendables” on his own, according to the lawsuit.
The arbitration resulted in Callaham receiving a sole “Story By” credit and top screenplay credit.
The plaintiff producers claim that they learned later that Callaham had withheld evidence and falsely represented his position during the arbitration.
Emails written in August 2009 show that Callaham accepted credits for the movie to which he was not entitled, the production companies say.
“For example, in one August 17, 2009, email, Callaham claims that the script for ‘The Expendables’ ‘IS FUCKING AWFUL … I am ASTOUNDED at how bad this is. I want you to know that it’s nothing like what I wrote,'” according to the complaint. (Ellipsis in complaint.)
In an email dated the next day, Callaham wrote: “Put it this way: the idea and very loose structure [of ‘The Expendables’] is mine. Everything else … I plead the fifth. Or, to put it another way, if I get sole credit like I am asking for … it would be A MIRACLE.” (Brackets and ellipses in complaint.)
Callaham’s false representations during arbitration caused the producers to pay him and his production company a writing credit bonus of $102,250, according to the lawsuit.
“The Expendables” was a hit, so the producers developed a sequel, “Expendables 2,” which was released in 2012.
Callaham initiated a new arbitration, claiming he deserved a $175,000 “sequel payment,” plus interest, though he did not contribute to the sequel, the producers say.
They seek punitive damages and reversal of the 2009 Writers Guild screen credit arbitration to reflect that Stallone should receive sole screenplay credit for “The Expendables.”
They also seek a finding that Callaham is not entitled to sequel payments for “Expendables 2” or the upcoming “Expendables 3,” slated for release in 2014.
The producers represented by Charles M. Coate with Costa, Abrams & Coate, of Santa Monica.
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