In Bankruptcy Hearing, 'Predator' Director Talks New Travolta Project and Nixes a Schwarzenegger Reunion
The filmmaker, who went to jail for his role in the Anthony Pellicano case, tells a judge that his new movie (‘Warbirds’) will star John Travolta and that he will be paid more than $1 million
By Eriq Gardner
Stick around a Wyoming bankruptcy court long enough and you’ll never know what you’ll hear — John Travolta signing up for a forthcoming Top Gun-type film, a lack of universal love for the acting chops of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and most especially, what in the world Die Hard director John McTiernan has been up to lately.
Once the film world’s top gun himself for such blockbusters as The Hunt for Red October and Predator, McTiernan spent 10 months in a South Dakota prison cell after pleading guilty to lying to law enforcement officers investigating him for hiring private eye Anthony Pellicano to wiretap The Dark Knight producer Charles Roven, with whom McTiernan worked on the 2002 film Rollerball. Now out of prison, he’s involved in a contentious bankruptcy dispute near his 3,254-acre ranch in Wyoming.
First Interstate Bank wanted to foreclose on the ranch, but McTiernan and his wife then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bank contends that the bankruptcy was done in bad faith and is now looking to convert the case into Chapter 7, a much more drastic procedure that seeks to liquidate rather than rehabilitate the individual.
On Wednesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Peter McNiff presided over a four-hour court hearing where a lawyer for McTiernan squared off against an attorney for the bank. Much of the hearing concerned the value of the ranch, McTiernan’s refusal to accept an initial offer for the property, and the nitty gritty of McTiernan’s financial statements. Nevertheless, McTiernan’s Hollywood comeback was also a prominent subject because the film director wishes to show he has other means to pay the creditors even if he refuses to liquidate his ranch.
James Belcher, McTiernan’s attorney, told the judge in his opening argument that while McTiernan was fighting for his freedom, he couldn’t work in the movie industry because it was impossible for production companies to get “key man” insurance on him. But he says the situation has changed.
"The evidence will show his earning potential dwarfs my concept of reality — north of $2.5 million on the projects he has on the table," said the lawyer. "One of them is sealed and in the bank."
Well, not quite sealed but very close.
McTiernan later took the witness stand and offered some clarity on what he’s been doing in his life the past year and what he intends to do next. “The basic idea is that I want to re-establish my career and rebuild my life,” he testified.
The director quickly added that the “normal way is you put out your shingle and you go to lunch a lot in Los Angeles and schmooze and eventually someone comes to you.”
But he’s not so fortunate to be in the situation where lunch meetings come easily. So he’s gone back to his roots as a filmmaker — writing scripts on spec. In fact, he says he has completed three screenplays. One was written in the months before he went to jail. The other two were written this past summer. And one of those scripts appears to have already scored a buyer.