Director William Friedkin and author William Blatty have sued Warner Bros., Turner Network Television and Turner Broadcasting System, claiming they were bilked out of cable profits for the 2000 re-release of The Exorcist.
Friedkin, who directed the film, and Blatty, who wrote the best-selling novel and screenplay on which the film is based, charges that AOL Time Warner gave cable rights for the revamped Exorcist to TNT and TBS for free. They are asking for unspecified damages.
According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, AOL Time Warner came up with a weak excuse for not obtaining a fee from Turner, saying if the re-release rights weren't given to Turner, Turner was simply going to air the older version. Friedkin and Blatty said they believe that any threat posed by Turner could be taken care of by one phone call from AOL Time Warner, Variety reports. The suit also alleges CBS purchased network broadcast rights at the below-market price of $1.5 million.
The film earned $40 million domestically and $110 million worldwide when the newer version was released in October, rivaling the most successful re-release of all time, the Star Wars series.
"Blatty and Friedkin vastly enriched Warner Bros. with their extraordinary talent. What happened to them illustrates the maxim that no good deed goes unpunished," Bert Fields, the plantiffs' lawyer, told Variety.
Also detailed in the complaint were Friedkin and Blatty's dealings with Warner Bros. They said that many years were spent trying to get Warner Bros. to re-release the film, while Friedkin went back to the edit bay and re-cut the film, re-doing sound and adding 11 minutes of additional footage. They also helped with the marketing of the film under the guarantee that their reward would be increased profits from the film, the complaint alleges. Under the original deal, still intact, Blatty received 39 percent of net profits and Friedkin received 10 percent
"It is our policy not to comment on matters of litigation, especially those that are ludicrous," a spokesperson for Warner Bros. told Variety.