James Franco’s true-life comedy The Disaster Artist has been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Oscars, but the writer of the original screenplay has filed a lawsuit claiming he was tricked into selling the rights to his drafts for a paltry sum. Based on actor Greg Sestero’s book of the same name, The Disaster Artist retells the making of Tommy Wiseau’s infamously terrible (and widely beloved) indie movie The Room, and stars Franco in the lead role as Wiseau. The movie’s only credited screenwriters are Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.
The Disaster Artist has received rave reviews since its release last year, and became something of a surprise Oscar contender (though not that much of a surprise, since the Academy loves movies about people making movies). However, in January director James Franco was accused of sexual misconduct by five women, and The Disaster Artist is now facing fresh controversy just a few days before this year’s Oscars ceremony.
Variety reports that Ryan Moody, a former student and later teaching assistant of Franco’s, has filed suit against Rabbit Bandini Productions (Franco’s production company) and Point Grey Pictures (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production company). The crux of the lawsuit is that Moody believes he was duped into selling his drafts of the screenplay and waiving any screenwriting credit for the small sum of $5,000, on the understanding that Rabbit Bandini would give him an associate producer credit and also produce his passion project screenplay, On the Bus, for a budget in the range of $5-10 million. Ultimately Moody received no credit for The Disaster Artist, and was eventually told that On the Bus would only be given a budget of $50,000.
The suit additionally notes that a pivotal moment from Moody’s drafts of the script made it into the final cut of the movie – specifically, a scene where Tommy Wiseau runs away from the premiere of The Room due to the audience’s initial negative reaction, but returns when the mood shifts to one of amusement and delight. This scene did not appear in Sestero’s book.
This news won’t have any impact on the outcome of the Oscars, since the lawsuit wasn’t filed until Wednesday, the day after the voting window closed. Still, it may well taint celebrations if Neustadter and Weber’s screenplay wins the award amid accusations of The Disaster Artist‘s original writer getting ripped off. We’ll keep you updated on any further developments, and you can read the lawsuit in full below.
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