A former student of James Franco who took one of the star’s classes at UCLA is suing over “The Disaster Artist,” claiming that the movie’s production company failed to live up to its agreement with him as an uncredited screenwriter on the project.
Ryan Moody alleges in his complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that he sold his screenplay for “The Disaster Artist” to Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, for only $5,000 in exchange for being credited as an associate producer and working as writer and director on a similarly budgeted, future movie project that would be in the $5-million to $10-million range.
But Moody said in his complaint that he was never properly credited on “The Disaster Artist” and that Rabbit Bandini reduced the budget of the future project — a movie titled “On the Bus” — to just $50,000.
The lawsuit also names Point Grey Pictures, the film production company founded by actor Seth Rogen and his business partner Evan Goldberg. Point Grey served as one of the production companies on “The Disaster Artist.”
An attorney for Franco didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Point Grey also didn’t immediately reply to queries.
“The Disaster Artist,” which Franco directed and stars in, opened in cinemas in December to critical acclaim. The comedy tells the behind-the-scenes story of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. Franco’s movie is adapted from the 2013 nonfiction book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.”
Moody claims in his suit that he delivered five drafts of “The Disaster Artist” between 2013 and 2014, but that in April 2014, Franco told him he was hiring more “established” writers. The movie’s credited writers — Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber — have been nominated for the Academy Award for adapted screenplay.
Moody also contends that the finished movie contains elements from his screenplay that weren’t in the original book.
The new lawsuit comes after Franco faced accusations from five women that the star engaged in inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior. The accusers include former students who took classes led by Franco. Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, disputed all the women’s allegations.
The writer recounts in the complaint that he took a class led by Franco titled “Adaptation and Collaboration” at UCLA and later served as the actor’s teaching assistant.
At the time, Moody was a master of fine arts candidate in directing at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
He alleges in the complaint that he initially balked at selling his screenplay for “The Disaster Artist” for a mere $5,000, but was pressured to do so by Franco’s producing partner Vince Jolivette, Rabbit Bandini executive Iris Torres and Point Grey’s James Weaver.
In addition to unspecified punitive damages, he is seeking to rescind the purchase agreement he made for his screenplay for “The Disaster Artist.”
The movie, which was released by indie distributor A24, has grossed more than $21 million domestically.