It took 37 credited producers to bring "Lee Daniels' 'The Butler'" to the big screen — and now Damon Dash is demanding to be recognized as No. 38.
The Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder has filed a lawsuit claiming he's owed money and credit for several of director-producer Daniels' film and TV endeavors, including "Butler," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
A summons filed in New York Supreme Court on Wednesday contends that Dash helped finance such projects as "The Woodsman," "Precious" and "The Paperboy" but did not receive compensation, and in some cases, credit, despite written and oral agreements.
Dash's attorney Natraj Bhushan told the New York Post, "It's very upsetting because there was a certain point where Lee was up-and-coming and Damon, as a music mogul and producer, really saw potential." Bhushan added, "Lee went on to a very successful career and all Damon wants is what he's rightfully entitled to."
Dash's desire to be recognized underscores the complexity, and challenges, of independent film financing. Over its long development process, "The Butler" was at times so hard up for cash that Daniels and others were forced to embark on numerous rounds of fundraising, even into the production process.
The project eventually landed money from sources as diverse as former NBA star Michael Finley and the late "Amazing Spider-Man" producer Laura Ziskin, resulting in more than three dozen people given producer credits. The film went on to gross more than $116 million at the North American box office.
Dash's summons notifies Daniels of his claim and gives him an opportunity to demand an actual complaint; if Daniels doesn't appear in New York court, Dash will seek a default judgment of $25 million, producer credits and attorney's fees.
A spokesperson for Daniels told THR, "The reported claims by Damon Dash that he is owed money from investments in Lee Daniels' films are completely without merit."
Dash's summons also names Simone Sheffield of Canyon Entertainment, a producer on a number of Daniels' films, and alleges that she defamed Dash and interfered in his business in the film and TV industry.