Mel Gibson's Oxford English Dictionary movie in lawsuit chaos

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer

The making of Mel Gibson’s new movie about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary has descended in legal chaos, involving restraining orders and a director thrown off the project.

According to Variety, Gibson is claiming that Voltage Pictures, which is making ‘The Professor and the Madman’, violated an agreement that he would get ultimate approval on the film, after it refused to allow director Farhad Safina to complete his final cut.

Safina, a friend of Gibson’s who was his assistant on ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and co-wrote ‘Apocalypto’ with him, has said that he was thrown off the project and is now suing the company for infringement of copyright and defamation, and has requested a restraining order.

Meanwhile, Voltage Pictures claims that Gibson and Safina held the company to ransom over extra shooting at Oxford University, to the tune of $2.5 million.

CEO of Voltage Nicolas Chartier, who has made Oscar-winning movies like ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, says that Gibson and Safina agreed to shoot the new scenes at the library of Trinity College in Dublin instead, which involved 200 extras, but changed their minds at the last minute.

“These issues caused the production to extend two days past the schedule of 40 shooting days and caused additional costs to the production, which was over budget by approximately $1.3 million,” Chartier claims.

Then, once a first version of the film was submitted – clocking in at two hours and 40 minutes – it was deemed ‘not strong’ enough to release.

Chartier implies that as a result of the cut not being good enough, Gibson and Safina then pressured the production company into shooting the extra scenes, while Safina allegedly refused to continue work on the film unless the extra scenes were shot and the extra money spent.

“Mr. Gibson claims to have final cut while refusing to watch the Picture, work on the Picture, or edit it,” Chartier adds, saying that Safina also refused to work with the company’s editor.

(Photo: FameFlynet)

It’s also said that Safina started work without a contract.

Chartier says that he was offered $200,000 for the job, but two days before production began, he then asked for $275,000. When that was refused, Safina showed up to work anyway, but without having secured his contract.

Safina wants the cut Voltage has made of the film impounded and destroyed.

“The financiers of the Picture could potentially lose their almost $25 million investment in the Picture,” said Voltage’s lawyers.

The movie is based on the book ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’, which told the true story of how a US army surgeon, William Chester Minor, contributed more than 10,000 entries to James Murray’s Oxford English Dictionary, which he began compiling in 1857.

This was despite Minor being imprisoned at Broadmoor, the hospital for the criminally insane, at the time.

Gibson plays Murray in the film, with Sean Penn as Minor, while Steve Coogan, Natalie Dormer and Ioan Gruffudd also star.

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