'Bohemian Rhapsody,' a 2018 musical drama biography, grossed more than USD 900 million worldwide, but its screenwriter claims he did not see a dime of the net revenues since he was told the film actually lost USD 51 million.
Anthony McCarten, a London-based novelist and playwright who also wrote the scripts for 'Darkest Hour' and 'The Theory of Everything,' has filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that he is the latest victim of studio accounting.
The film 'Bohemian Rhapsody' told the story of 'Queen' and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury. The film cost around USD 55 million to make, making it look to be extremely profitable. The lawsuit claims, however, that Twentieth Century Fox, the film's distributor, and co-producer, employed accounting techniques to avoid paying.
"If net proceeds don't pay out on a low-budget film that does nearly a billion dollars at the box office, then they never will," states the suit.
GK Films, the production company that developed the picture and with whom McCarten signed his contract, is being sued by McCarten. According to the lawsuit, McCarten is owed 5% of the film's net proceeds, but Fox has incorrectly substituted its own definition of that word.
GK Films, managed by producer Graham King, is an independent production firm that has backed blockbuster films such as 'Gangs of New York' and 'Hugo.' The organisation has a reputation for delivering cheaper upfront charges in exchange for a more favourable definition of backend revenues, according to the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, McCarten was dissatisfied with his low remuneration for writing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and called Denis O'Sullivan, a company executive, at one point.
"The amount is what it is," O'Sullivan informed the screenwriter, "but Graham wants me to tell you that, just like he did with Cameron Diaz on 'Gangs of New York,' he will take care of you in success," according to the suit.
According to the complaint, McCarten believed GK Films' definition of net proceeds to be similar to the film's real net receipts, and that he would not be subject to standard major studio accounting, which would wipe out any apparent profits by adding fees.
In 2016, GK Films partnered with Fox to co-produce and distribute the film, directed by Bryan Singer and starring Rami Malek. The film won four Academy Awards, including best actor for Malek, when it was released in 2018.
McCarten did receive bonuses based on the film's box office success. However, he has received two financial statements from Fox regarding "net proceeds." According to the lawsuit, the first claimed the picture had lost USD 105 million in April 2019, while the second claimed it had only lost USD 51 million in July 2021.
According to Variety, McCarten claims that GK Films has given Fox permission to utilise Fox's definition of net proceeds, but that he has never seen or agreed to it.