(CN) - Bringing a federal action over the rights to the film “London Fields,” three distributors and financiers accuse director Matthew Cullen of holing up with the mystery-crime thriller after going over-schedule and over-budget.
Filed on Friday in Albany, New York, the complaint is the latest in a string of lawsuits over the controversial film whose stars include Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton, Jim Sturgess, Johnny Depp and Cara Delevingne.
The film, based on the Martin Amis novel of the same name, is scheduled for a Oct. 26, 2018, release — two years after it was originally set to premier — and the new suit seeks to prevent interference in that distribution.
Represented by West Hollywood attorney Raymond Markovich, the studios Golden Ring International, Living the Dream Life Films and TradeMit Limited say Cullen has “failed and refused and continues to fail and refuse to complete and deliver the picture.”
Cullen had signed an agreement in 2013, according to the complaint, to make nonparty Nicola Six Limited sole copyright owner of the film.
“Despite TML’s repeated requests to Cullen to do so, Cullen failed and refused and continues to fail and refuse to consult with, and to provide his services as a director to TML to complete and deliver the picture to NSL,” the complaint states, using abbreviations for the Cyprus-based TradeMit and for Nicola Six, which is named after a clairvoyant character in the movie.
In addition to contract interference, the complaint accuses Cullen and his production company Motion Theory Inc. of slandering their title.
“London Fields” is Cullen’s first feature film. He’d previously worked mostly with music videos, including Katy Perry’s hit “Dark Horse.”
A lightning rod for legal action, the film led Periscope Entertainment to sue Muse Productions in 2014 over an alleged $300,000 advance.
Cullen sued producer Christopher Hanley of Nicola Six for fraud a year later, claiming the film was denied its promised financing. Cullen also claimed Hanley had edited parts of the film in inappropriate ways without his knowledge or consent, including images that evoke people jumping out of buildings on Sept. 11, 2001, spliced with porn.
Hanley shot back weeks later with a countersuit that claimed Cullen had breached the contract when he failed to deliver the film on time and exceeded the budget — arguments that are repeated in Friday’s suit.
Friday’s suit also mentions this editing argument of Cullen’s and maintains “that Cullen had no right to ‘final cut’ of the picture pursuant to the director agreement or otherwise.”
But at the time, four of the film’s stars — Depp, Heard, Thornton and Sturgess — wrote letters to the producers over the controversial cuts. Cullen maintained he would not a appear at the premiere at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, and eventually the film was pulled as a result of the legal tangles.
Heard, the actress who plays the character Nicola Six, also filed a 2017 suit, claiming the producers had hired a body double to shoot nude scenes of her character to which she had not agreed in her contract. That suit was settled in September. As reported by Variety, the producers also sued Heard in November 2016 for allegedly “sabotaging” the original premiere.
Heard filed for divorce against her then-husband Depp in 2016, finalized in early 2017. She alleged in court papers that he had been verbally and physically abusive toward her and was granted a temporary restraining order.
The film has garnered some unpleasant early reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it “aggressively awful,” while Variety labeled it a “veritable hash of garish, disassociated tableaux.”
“I believe the complaint speaks for itself,” said Markovich in an email Monday, declining further comment. He said it is his first involvement in the jumble of “London Fields” lawsuits.
East coast representatives for Cullen’s Motion Theory have not returned a request for comment, and the voice mailbox for the studio itself was full Monday.