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Ricky Schroder Claims Producers Extorted

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Actor Ricky Schroder claims in Superior Court that two producers tried to extort him after he backed away from a job to direct, write and star in a remake of "Black Stallion."

Schroder sued Joseph and Jack Nasser, Nasser Entertainment Group, NGN Productions and Nasser Group Inc., in Superior Court.

Schroder, a former child star who has acted professionally since 1979, claims that after the "Black Stallion" project stalled, Joseph and Jack Nasser falsely claimed to have rights to the next project he made, "Wild Hearts," also about a stallion.

Schroder says that in 2010 he entered into discussions to make an adaptation of the 1938 movie "King of Sierras" aka "Black Stallion" after the defendants represented that they had secured rights to remake it.

"However this representation was false," according to the complaint.

It continues: "Schroder and defendants commenced negotiations for the production of the film, with the intention of concluding a deal memorandum (the 'deal memo'') which would be signed by the parties and which would subsequently be memorialized in one or more full agreements. Some of the bases of the negotiation were that Schroder would write the script, direct and star in the film, and defendants would act as the producers of the film, which function included, but was not limited to, providing the funding for the film."

Schroder claims says that Joe Nasser gave him a transcript of the dialogue from the 1938 movie, which he says he never used, for "creative reasons." He says he told the producers that he needed $1.6 million to make the movie on an 18-day shooting schedule.

The project came to a standstill, Schroder says, because the producers could come up with only $600,000 and wanted him to shoot the movie in 12 days.

Schroder says that Joe Nasser implied that he could replace him, though the deal memo did not allow the producers to hire another director. He claims that the deal memo is a nonbinding contract because no one signed it.

"After several months of no progress on the film, Schroder decided to make a different film, which was 'Wild Hearts,'" the complaint states. "The idea of the film was conceived by Schroder's wife Andrea Schroder and his daughter Cambrie Schroder. Schroder wrote the script and, using his own funds, produced, directed and starred in 'Wild Hearts.' Principal photography of 'Wild Hearts' took place in February, 2011. 'Wild Hearts' did not use any material whatsoever from 'King of the Sierras' aka 'The Black Stallion' and was not based upon, derived or adapted from, or an expression of, 'King of the Sierras' aka 'The Black Stallion' or any part of 'King of the Sierras' aka 'The Black Stallion.' Other than the fact that both included a wild stallion, there were no similarities between 'Wild Hearts' and 'King of the Sierras' aka 'Black Stallion.'

"At no time did defendants perform any aspect of the deal memo nor did they tender performance of any aspect of the deal memo. Specifically, they never came up with the funding for the film under the deal memo.

"Defendants did not pay or offer to pay any of the costs or expenses incurred in making 'Wild Hearts,' nor did they reimburse or offer to reimburse Schroder for his payment of such expenses after 'Wild Hearts' was shot."

But Schroder says the producers' attorney sent him an "extortionate letter," claiming ownership of "Wild Hearts."

In response, Schroder says, he proposed that the producers distribute "Wild Hearts." But he says talks collapsed after the producers asked for fees "that were considerably higher than is standard in the motion picture industry."

"On or about January 30, 2012, another attorney for defendants sent an extortionate letter claiming that the draft negotiated distribution agreement was binding even though it was never signed. The letter further claimed that the copyright in 'Wild Hearts' was owned solely and entirely by defendants and that Schroder owned no rights in 'Wild Hearts' and also claimed falsely that Joe authored a 'treatment/outline' on which 'Wild Hearts' was based, " the complaint states.

Schroder says that other distributors "withdrew their interest" in "Wild Hearts" because of the Nasser's claims.

"As a result of all of defendants' acts herein before alleged, plaintiff has been unable to distribute or otherwise commercially exploit 'Wild Hearts,' a film his wife and daughter conceived and he financed, produced, directed and starred in," the complaint states.

Schroder appeared as a child in the boxing movie "The Champ" and the sitcom "Silver Spoons." As an adult he has appeared in the Western "Lonesome Dove" and in "NYPD Blue."

He seeks declaratory relief, and punitive damages for conversion, civil extortion, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

He is represented by Geoffrey Berkin.

Nasser Entertainment did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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