Acclaimed film director Jim Sheridan has become unwittingly embroiled in a bitter legal dispute over his much anticipated and much delayed biopic, Sheriff Street.
Sheridan was promised $150,000 (€140,000) for certain rights to the film screenplay but never received any money, it is alleged in court papers.
A Canadian production company is accusing a Hollywood film financier and producer of fraud, alleging he falsely claimed rights to the Sheriff Street screenplay penned by the In America director, who has recently been filming The Secret Scripture in Ireland.
Financier David Ranes, and his companies, are accused of pocketing some $400,000, including $150,000 the producers, Dark House Films, believed was going to Sheridan to keep the director on board.
Ranes is also involved in a second film that Sheridan is due to direct — and he is also being sued in connection with that project.
The screenplay for Sheriff Street, set in Dublin in the 1960s and based on the director’s own childhood, has been kicking around Hollywood for some years.
Toronto-based Dark House films, in papers filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims it agreed in August 2013 to invest over $5m in the film.
Ranes told the company, and principal Jessica Martins, he held the rights to the screenplay and Sheridan would also direct the movie, according to the complaint.
If Dark Horse and Martins invested in the movie, they would receive a 20% return, a profit split on net proceeds and credit as producers, Ranes is alleged to have said.
A finance agreement was signed and the Canadian producers handed over a “good faith deposit” of $250,000.
But Martins claims when a few months later she contacted Ranes, the financier told her Sheridan was going to abandon the project unless she handed over another $150,000.
Martins says she demanded to speak to Sheridan but was told by Ranes the director refused to talk to her. She sent more money though received no confirmation Sheridan remained on board or that it was going forward.
By January 2014, Dark House and Martins wanted more information. There was no answer, it is alleged in the papers, until Ranes was threatened with a lawsuit. A settlement was reached in September 2014 with Ranes promising to pay just under $400,000 but he will not pay, the plaintiff’s claim.
It was not until October 2014 Martins finally contacted Sheridan, who told her Ranes never controlled the rights to the screenplay.
Sheridan added that the Hollywood player promised him $150,000 for certain rights but never paid up.
Ranes could not be contacted for comment last night. Neither Martins nor her lawyer returned calls for comment.
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