For the second time at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, a movie has been pulled from the roster amid creative differences and allegations of non-payment. Festival organizers announced London Fields (“a noir crime thriller based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name”) would be withdrawn the day before it was set to premiere.
“We have recently learned of a legal matter that has arisen between the director and the producers of the film London Fields,” they explained in a news release.
“We have worked to make our festival a public showcase for creative expression through the moving image, however with uncertainty surrounding the creative vision of the version of the film scheduled to be screened on Sept. 18, we feel it is only appropriate that we remove this film from the festival lineup. We are hopeful that this matter will be resolved positively, and that audiences will have the opportunity to see the film.”
According to legal documents, the director of the film — Matthew Cullen — is suing the project’s producers, accusing them of fraud and using his name to promote a cut of the film he does not support.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants “secretly prepared their own version of the film without consulting with Cullen,” who was supposed to have complete oversight of the finished product.
“In creating their own version of the film, Defendants have interjected scenes and footage that are highly offensive and neither appear in the script nor are a part of the film that Cullen was asked to direct,” the document states.
“Among other things, these elements include incendiary imagery evoking 9/11 jumpers edited against pornography, as well as juxtaposing the holiest city in Islam against mind-control.”
Cullen also complains that screenwriter Roberta Hanley (who is married to Christopher S. Hanley, one of the producers) was allowed to “substantially interfere with the production of the film.”
The lawsuit also claims Cullen was not compensated, an allegation the producer denied to the New York Times earlier this week. Hanley said on Monday that he’s been though creative battles with every film director he’s worked with.
The Times also reported that the film’s biggest stars — Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton and Jim Sturgess — wrote letters to their producers, objecting to the “provocative cut” of the movie. The stars were also reportedly debating whether to show up to Friday’s scheduled premiere, even though Hanley said Thornton and Heard would be contractually obliged to support the film.
Global News reached out to Cullen’s legal team, but has not received a response.
Producers for the film said in a statement to Global News they were “greatly disappointed” the TIFF decided to pull the film and said Cullen’s complaint violates provision under the Director’s Guild of America.
“The timing and the content of the director’s lawsuit shows that it is a publicity stunt. The filing of Mathew Cullen’s complaint violates the arbitration provisions of his own guild, the DGA. Sadly, Mathew can’t deal with the fact that he does not control the final cut of the movie,” the statement read.
“He was given two deadlines to deliver a ‘director’s cut’ and missed both deadlines. His guild has rules for withdrawing his name from the picture and he missed those deadlines.”
Those who purchased tickets to any of the film’s three screenings at the festival can request a refund or exchange from the TIFF box office.