Celebrities and studios have battled over their rights ever since television first came into being, and production houses sold their broadcasting rights to others. With the new era of digital technology, these disputes have risen to another level as actors demand what they deserve. While the celebrities try to calm the matter privately, they decide to take a legal route once they realize there is no way to get justice unless the court is involved. Celebrities have sued studios over movie rights, box office sales, fraud, and extortion, leading to long-running case battles.
Some studios take responsibility for their wrongdoings and decide to settle their differences, and others refuse to back down and continue to court proceedings. Scarlett Johannsson famously sued Disney, and she isn’t the first one to do so. Here’s a look at the actors who have sued studios over the years.
10 Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was set to release in May 2020 but was pushed to July 2021 due to the pandemic. Johansson sued Disney for a $50 million payout when Black Widow was sabotaged by the theatrical release to earn money through their streaming platform, as noted by Variety. The two parties settled on an undisclosed amount in early October 2021.
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9 Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler sued Millenium Film, and Nu Image for profits for his 2013 movie Olympus Has Fallen for $10 million. The film grossed $170.3 million at the box office, and an independent audit revealed that Butler was owed $11 million for his work. Butler sued the studio for breach of contract, citing fraud and many more counts.
8 Robin Williams
Legendary late actor Robin Williams sued Frank and Beans after they didn’t continue with the movie. In 2008, Williams sued over a pay dispute since his contract stated that the actor would get paid even if the movie was not made. Williams sued them for $6 million, but the result is still unknown. According to Star Insider, the movie was made in 2010 starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan called Cop Out.
7 Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson sued Voltage Pictures in 2017 for the movie The Professor And The Madman for limiting the movie’s financing by refusing the shoot on intended locations. The lawsuit also prevented the studio from showing the movie to potential producers who could fund the film. The lawsuit was settled confidentially before the movie’s release, but the version is not what Gibson hoped for.
6 James Gandolfi
One of the biggest television stars ever, late actor James Gandolfi played the lead role of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, which became an iconic character in TV history. Gandolfi sued HBO for an increase in payday from $400,000 per episode to $1 million when the show was at its height. HBO countersued for $100 million; however, it later settled with Gandolfi being paid $1 million per episode.
5 Crispin Glover
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Actor Crispin Glover sued universal and Amblin Studios for using his mold in the sequel to the hit movie Back To The Future. Glover refused to be a part of the movie, yet the studio used him for an amount of screen time. According to LA Mag, the lawsuit was filed in 1990 and was settled with Glover getting paid $600,000.
4 Richard Gere
Richard Gere sued Random Acts Entertainment in 2018 for extortion. The actor had a contract with the studio to purchase the rights to a book together to make a movie adaptation; however, the studio never reimbursed Gere for the book, and the script written by the studio writer was poor. The studio attempted to sue him for $500,000. Instead, he sued them back for extortion for more.
3 Kevin Costner
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Actor and filmmaker Kevin Costner sued independent studio Morgan Creek Productions in 2012 for not disclosing the profits of his 1991 hit film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Costner accused the studio of using the money for foreign distribution through a studio run by Morgan Creek Productions’ CEO James Robinson. The lawsuit detailed Costner to be paid 15% of the film’s profits, more than $100 million. The lawsuit was settled in 2014.
2 Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone sued Warner Bros. in April 2017 for-profits for his 1993 movie Demolition Man. The lawsuit was made after the studio claimed that $65 million was used to recoup the movie; hence they owed nothing to Stallone even though he was entitled to get 15-20% of the movie’s profits. After Stallone’s assertion, he was sent a check for $2.82 million, but the actor remained unsatisfied, as reported by Hollywood Reporter.
1 Elizabeth Taylor
In 1964, Elizabeth Taylor sued 20th Century Fox for not getting proper pay for her hit movie Cleopatra. Fox took things to the next level when they sued Taylor and Richard Burton for damaging the public image of the film. According to modern-day inflation, the case was settled a while later, with Taylor getting paid $7 million, which is close to $60 million today.
From the early 1960s to modern times, actors have always stood their ground to get what they deserve from movie studios, even if it strains the relationships with the production houses. While the future of some of the ongoing settlements remains murky, studios usually try to settle them rather than getting criticized in the media.
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Sources: Variety, Star Insider, LA Mag, Hollywood Reporter
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