Speaking of lawsuits over movies that made a lot of money in the early months of 2004 …

People reports that Benedict Fitzgerald, co-writer of The Passion of the Christ (2004), is suing writer-director Mel Gibson for $5 million:

In the 21-page complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Benedict Fitzgerald accuses Gibson of fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices.

“Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben’s fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs,” the lawsuit says.

Fitzgerald claims Gibson, who also takes a screenwriting credit on the 2004 film, engaged in a “chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit,” telling Fitzgerald he’d be working on a small, $4 million to $7 million project that would yield little money for Fitzgerald and none for Gibson.

Although by some accounts the film grossed over $600 million worldwide, Fitzgerald complains he was paid $75,000 and that he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson for expenses.

Incidentally, it was just over a year ago that I linked to an item on a film that Fitzgerald was developing called Myriam, Mother of the Christ. At the time, the film was “slated to bow around Easter 2008″, but those plans evidently didn’t pan out. I wonder what stage that project is at, now, or if it is still in the works.

FEB 12 UPDATE: The Associated Press adds this detail:

Fitzgerald also alleged Gibson promised he wouldn’t receive any money from the film and any profit would be distributed to people who worked on the movie.

Gibson stated he didn’t want “money on the back of what he considered a personal gift to his (Roman Catholic) faith,” the lawsuit said.

So, um, the question has to be asked: What is Fitzgerald planning to do with the money, if he should win the lawsuit?

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Eliza

    The lawsuit documents can be found at this link.
    http://www.accesshollywood.com/article/8365

    As I read the lawsuit, Fitzgerald was paid an unstated amount of money for the script in Spring of 2001 and received two subsequent bonuses of $75,000 each. His contract calls for 5% of certain revenues, and he is alleging that he is being cheated because Gibson was paid $30 million after saying he wanted no money. Icon Productions also earned $17 million in producers fees. He also thinks Icon is overestimating other costs of production and prints/advertising. Fitzgerald received a loan of $200,000 from Gibson in December of 2003 with his interest in the film’s profits as collateral.


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