The last-minute back-and-forth Hollywood legal tiff between The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros. over whether The Butler, Lee Daniels' flick, will hit theaters on August 16 under that name got a lot realer after super attorney David Boies accused the other side of extortion.
Since we last checked in with these fighting film executives behaving, the two sides exchanged a series of long, arduous legal letters accusing the other side of various amounts of wrong doing over the holiday weekend. And, of course, it's all playing out in real time on Deadline. The Weinstein Company is appealing an MPAA ruling in Warner's favor that would force TWC to change the name of the Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey vehicle with a little more than a month before its release. Lee Daniels wrote a touching personal plea to Warner begging them to let him use the title. Warner's legal counsel wrote a long-winded defense of their claim that The Weinstein Company should be forced to change the movie's title because of a 1917 short film that used The Butler first. But Weinstein Company attorney David Boies is the one who made news when his very short, devastating response, sent on Saturday afternoon, accused Warner of trying to extort TWC:
I will not try to respond to your version of the facts in part because it is so inaccurate and incomplete that such an exercise would be extensive, and in part because your letter appears to be a press release masquerading as a lawyer’s letter. However, I briefly note your lack of response to three critical points.
Third, none of this controversy would have occurred if Warner Bros. had not repudiated its representations and agreements not to object to “The Butler” in a transparent attempt to hold a major civil rights film hostage to extort unrelated concessions from TWC.
Warner hasn't responded to the claim yet, obviously. But the expectation that this fight would resolve itself out in a back-room with a handshake deal is looking less likely by the hour. What concessions Boies is referrign to is unclear, which makes this kind of boring legal battle just a bit juicier.