Hollywood star Eva Green says she is being unfairly “painted as a diva” in a bitter legal war with producers and financiers over a doomed sci-fi film, as the High Court trial got underway on Thursday.
The actress signed on to star in A Patriot alongside Helen Hunt and Charles Dance in 2019, and says it was a “passion project” to highlight the climate catastrophe.
But the project was derailed amid an acrimonious falling out between Green, financial backers White Lantern, and executive producers Jake Seal and Terry Bird.
Green has been accused of “unreasonable demands” and a secret bid to sabotage production, but she says the film was fatally undermined by efforts to make it “on a shoestring”.
In opening remarks, Green’s barrister Edmund Cullen KC said the star is being targeted in a legal case “designed to blacken her name”.
“This case is designed to paint my client as a diva, to win headlines and damage her reputation, and an attempt to intimidate her not to fight the case”, he said.
He said the former Bond girl was desperate to make the film, but was “at odds” with financiers who never managed to secure a budget originally planned at almost £8 million.
“It was for her a passion project”, he said. “The theme of the film concerns an issue of great concern to her, namely the climate catastrophe.
“She loved the script and wanted the film to be made. She bent over backwards to get this done.
“She repeatedly agreed to postpone the start of principle photography and agreed to the move from Ireland to the UK.
“She repeatedly offers to use part of her fee to finance the production costs.”
Mr Cullen continued: “We say it is really extraordinary to find she is now confronted with a case that she was somehow trying to undermine the project all along by making unreasonable demands.”
Green sued for her £830,000 fee from the doomed project, but then faced a counterclaim that she had deliberately sabotaged the film.
She is set to give evidence on Monday next week, but missed today’s hearing due to a scheduling conflict.
In messages disclosed before the trial, the French actress, 42, branded Mr Seal as “evil” and a “mad man”, referred to herself as “Cruella”, and called Mr Bird a “f***ing moron”.
Green’s legal team insisted the messages “must be seen in context”.
“They are in essence an informal venting of a stream of consciousness as events unfolded.
“The language is unguarded and at times strongly, and perhaps carelessly, expressed.
“They are contradictory and volatile, reflecting the personalities of those involved and the extreme tension surrounding the Film’s production.”
Green, the star of films including Sin City 2 and Dumbo, is accused of making unreasonable demands for hiring crew members and changing the filming schedule, but says she had those powers as an executive producer.
She is accused of pretending to be content with the production while privately looking for ways out of the movie, allegedly dubbing it “Operation Fake it”.
In reply, Green says she was attempting to make the best quality film possible and had doubts about the funding and direction of the project.
Representing White Lantern, Max Mallin KC said the film project collapsed after a “clash between Ms Green’s expectations and reality”, accusing her of “failing to engage responsibly in pre-production and repeatedly making unreasonable demands of White Lantern”.
In written submissions, he argued there was evidence that Green started to express reservations about the production shortly after signing up.
She sent messages saying it is was “impossible” to work while Mr Seal was involved, and suggested her “soul will die” if she had to attend studios in Hampshire, adding: “That is why I am pulling out”.
While Green denies she withdrew from the project, Mr Mallin said the actress almost pulled out in July 2019 during the switch from Ireland to the UK, when she expressed having a “bad feeling in my heart”.
In September, Green said of Mr Seal: “Jake is a mad dictator who is planning to make a cheap B movie”
In written submissions to the court, Mr Cullen called the case against Green “unfocussed and rambling”.
“It seems to be designed to blacken the name of an actor who has not breached a contract or missed a day’s shooting in a career spanning 20 years”, he said, suggesting the executive producers “have sought to lay every failure of the production at Eva Green’s door”.
Green’s team say the damages claim against her “an attempt to reconstruct a false factual narrative”.
They continued: “Bizarrely Eva Green is criticised extensively for her supposedly unreasonable behaviour, when in fact the documentary evidence shows her consistently striving to ensure that the Film would be of the highest possible quality, including by making repeated offers to contribute her own funds towards the hiring of suitable crew.”
She says she was “shocked and upset” when a funding grant was not obtained and production was moved out of Ireland.
The court heard early financiers of the film put forward $1.25million but found it “at risk” with a first-time producer and director.
Green says Mr Seal was installed to try to recover the money, while the financiers put forward only a further $150,000 despite filming of the movie looming.
“They wanted the film to be made on a shoestring”, said Mr Cullen. “Eva Green was caught up in this mess.”
Mr Mallin said Green had a “commitment to the film she wanted to make, but she had not only not a commitment but a vitriolic aversion to the film White Lantern can and was going to make.”
The court heard both Hunt and Dance had dropped out of the film by the time of its collapse in autumn 2019. Actors Tim Robbins and Kathy Bates had originally been attached to the movie.
Green is up against White Lantern Film (Britannica) Limited and a second defendant, SMC Specialty Finance LLC.
The trial continues.