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Fast & Furious producer sues Universal over Hobbs and Shaw spinoff

Just when you thought the engine for the Fast & Furious spinoff, HOBBS AND SHAW, was purring like a kitten, word has come down the line that Fast franchise producer Neal Mortiz is suing Universal for breach of oral contract and promissory fraud after being unceremoniously dismissed from the project led by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham“This case presents a classic example of Hollywood greed,” says the filing made this morning in Los Angeles Superior Court, submitted by the shark-like Hollywood attorney Dale Kinsella.

Deadline exclusively broke the news about Mortiz's filing this afternoon, which in one way or another states that the Fast franchise alum wants to be reinstated as lead producer of the HOBBS AND SHAW project. As per his complaints against the studio, Mortiz is claiming that his departure will cost him “tens of millions dollars in damages in lost compensation.”

“In an extraordinary show of bad faith, and just a few days before filming was set to begin on Hobbs and Shaw, Universal took the position that Moritz either had to amend his oral producer deal to accept substantially inferior financial terms, or be cut out of the Picture altogether,” Mortiz argues. You can read the filing in-full here“Remarkably, despite Moritz having complete Pay-or-Play protection on all of his last several deals on the FF Franchise and having relied on Universal’s oral promises, Universal also took the extraordinary position that it was free to exploit Moritz’s ideas for Hobbs and Shaw, and his work product over an approximately year-and-a-half period, without honoring its oral producer agreement,” the lengthy document states. As of the moment, Mortiz is seeking a jury trial to hash out the specifics of his case.

As Deadline lays out in their extensive report, the doucment states that, “Indeed, Universal has claimed that it can move forward with Hobbs and Shaw without providing Moritz with any credit or compensation.” What this suggests is that Mortiz was ousted from the HOBBS AND SHAW production as of September 7th, after denying the terms of a significant reduction in his overall compensation that the studio side-lined him with last summer. “If Universal believes that it can treat one of its most successful producers with such extraordinary bad faith, one can only imagine how Universal treats its lesser established producers.”

As per Mortiz's ire, the filing states that a verbal contract between Universal Pictures chair Langley, Universal Pictures president Jimmy Horowitz, and writer Chris Morgan was agreed upon that had Mortiz earning “$2 million in fixed compensation applicable against a 6% first dollar gross participation.” Furthermore, that “participation would be reducible with all other first dollar gross proceeds participation on a pro rata basis, along with a defined Over Budget Adjustment provision, which was the first dollar gross compensation option in the FF8-10 Agreement.”

Now, I'm no lawyer, but it sounds as if Universal has some explaining to do, no?

As the saga continues, we discover that Mortiz's lawyer, Howard Abramson, was told on August 6th that the deal was being augmented. The late-in-the-game amendment reportedly left Mortiz and his legal representatives in the lurch, especially after Moritz’s production executive Amanda Lewis and her family had relocated to London on behalf of Universal's checkbook. Imagine moving your whole family to another country only to discover that the details of why you'd moved had been changed. As an American import living in Canada myself, I can tell you first hand that moving a country is a huge pain in the ass. I can only imagine the frustration this event had caused for all involved.

“Horowitz’s purported excuse for asking to change Moritz’s first dollar gross deal was that the Picture’s budget had supposedly increased,” the filing states. “However, on information and belief, the budget for Hobbs and Shaw was actually fifteen million less at the time of this call than it had been when Universal had first sent the draft producer agreement to Moritz’s counsel in May 2018, which contained the first dollar gross deal to which the parties had orally agreed.”

“To make matters worse, the participation pool that Universal was proposing was far worse financially for Moritz than any other pool participation he had ever received on any film in the FF Franchise,” the complaint says.

For a more detailed report of this on-going matter, be sure to check out Deadline's coverage. In the meantime, filming continues on the spinoff which also stars Vanessa Kirby (THE CROWN, ABOUT TIME), Idris Elba (BEASTS OF NO NATION, THE DARK TOWER), Eddie Marsan (21 GRAMS, THE WORLD'S END), and Stephanie Vogt (THE FOREST).

Hopefully, these on-going legal proceedings won't pump the brakes on the release of HOBBS AND SHAW, which is currently scheduled for an August 2, 2019 premiere.

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