The erstwhile James Bond, looking to return to his secret-agent roots in Mandalay Pictures' spy thriller End Game, is now slapping the company and its cofounder and chairman Peter Guber with a $17 million lawsuit for pulling the plug on the picture and leaving the Oscar-winning actor high and dry.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Mandalay of all kind of misdeeds pertaining to the ending of End Game. The laundry list includes intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and breach of oral contract.
Connery says he signed on to star in and coproduce the movie in 1999 for an upfront fee of $17 million plus a portion of the film's gross. He and his producing partner, Rhonda Tollefson, were also set to receive $250,000 to fund their production company, Fountainbridge.
But the deal was doomed from the start. His suit claims Mandalay "strung Connery along for two years" promising to finance End Game, but ultimately the company was "nothing more than a house of cards."
The suit alleges that Mandalay's money began drying up in 2000, something Guber and pals concealed from Connery "in an attempt to hold themselves out to the entertainment industry as a viable production company." Connery says Mandalay used his name "on a fictional slate of future films in its attempts to convince potential financiers and distributors of Mandalay's viability as an ongoing producer of motion pictures."
After spending two years collaborating with at least three screenwriters and interviewing various directors for the project, Connery and Mandalay finally settled on a final draft of the script in late 2001, with the expectation shooting would begin in early 2002.
However, the suit says "Mandalay and Guber suddenly refused to cooperate with Connery in the final preparation of the project for production and, in fact, simply cut off all communications with Connery."
As a result, the 72-year-old Scottish thespian was forced to "expend considerable time and effort in developing the project and to pass on other film opportunities given the expectation that End Game would be put into production."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, End Game would have seen Connery essaying the role of a CIA agent who comes upon a conspiracy, is pinned as the fall guy and must join forces with a younger agent to clear his name. (Sounds suspiciously like Sydney Pollack's 1975 yarn Three Days of the Condor.)
Chuck Russell (The Mask) was reportedly attached to direct the movie at one point, though his name's not mentioned in the suit.
Mandalay, meanwhile, says Connery's complaint is bogus.
"It's not our policy to comment on litigation," says company rep Kevin Mortensen, seconds before commenting on the litigation. "We are confident in our position that the claims are frivolous and without any merit. Lawsuits like this are not uncommon in this business."
Mandalay has cranked out the likes of Sleepy Hollow, Seven Years in Tibet, The Deep End of the Ocean and Enemy at the Gates. Guber is best known for his stint as studio boss at Columbia Pictures and subsequently as producer of such hits as Batman, Rain Man, The Color Purple and Flashdance.