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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Tommy Lee Jones Wants to Keep ‘No Country’ Money

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Tommy Lee Jones is challenging an order that requires him to pay his former talent agency close to $1.5 million for "No Country for Old Men."

Jones, 66, filed a notice of appeal and request for trial in Superior Court against William Morris Agency and William Morris Endeavor, alleging breach of fiduciary duty.

In the six-page complaint, Jones and his Texas loan-out company, Javelina Film, dispute a decision by California Labor Commissioner Julie Su ordering him to hand over 10 percent commissions to the agency.

The actor claims that the agency failed to inform him during contract negotiations for Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men" that Paramount had offered him a $1 million fee to take on the role of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

According to court documents attached to the complaint, Jones was paid a reduced fee of $750,000 to appear in the 2007 movie, and promised bonuses based on the movie's worldwide box office.

Jones also claims that the agency failed to "use best efforts" to help him when Paramount tried to back away from paying him those back-end payments.

The commissioner noted that Jones says William Morris Endeavor refused to cooperate with his attorneys after he started arbitration proceedings against Paramount. Jones also says the agency should have done more to get him what he was owed.

In 2009, an arbitration panel awarded Jones $15 million in bonuses, according to the commissioner's 19-page decision.

Jones also accuses the agency of "disparaging him" after he was considered for the role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coens' 2010 movie "True Grit." That part eventually went to Jeff Bridges, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Soon after Jones parted company with the agency, Jones' former agent, Michael Cooper, allegedly wrote an email to "True Grit" producer Scott Rudin which stated: "'So screw Tommy Lee for 'T. Grit spoke to Ethan about Kurt Russell (who's the right age and is a real shitkicker). Love this idea,'" according to the attached documents.

But the commissioner noted that Jones had already parted ways with William Morris, and that Cooper was "upset at losing" the actor when he wrote the email.

He also found that the email did not sway Rudin as he cast the movie.

As such, the commissioner found that Jones did not lose out as a result of what he called agency "mistakes," or breach its fiduciary duty to the actor.

Now Jones has asked the court to overturn that decision and order the agency to repay the commissions, and pay him $250,000 in monetary damages for the agency's alleged breaches. He also wants a declaration that he is not required to pay any further commissions for "No Country for Old Men."

Adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel, "No Country for Old Men" swept the 80th Academy Awards, winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor award for Javier Bardem, and Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for the Coen brothers.

Jones has snagged three Academy Award nominations, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1993 thriller "The Fugitive."

The actor is represented in court by Martin Singer of Lavely and Singer.

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