Entertainment & Arts

Martin Amis film dropped from Toronto amid legal row

A scene from London Fields Image copyright Muse Productions Inc
Image caption Cullen claims the film - a murder mystery based on a Martin Amis novel - includes 'incendiary imagery evoking 9/11'

The world premiere of a film featuring Billy Bob Thornton and Johnny Depp has been cancelled after the director sued the producers for "fraud".

The Toronto Film Festival pulled the premiere of London Fields after Matthew Cullen claimed producers had added "incendiary imagery" without approval.

Producers Christopher Hanley and Jordan Gertner hit back, stating Cullen "does not control the final cut".

Early reviews of the film - based on a Martin Amis novel - were mixed.

The Guardian called it "novelistic, rich and awfully silly", while Screen Daily described it as "lushly ambitious".

Toronto organisers took the decision to withdraw the film from the line-up after becoming aware of Cullen's legal action in Los Angeles, first reported on Tuesday.

"With uncertainty surrounding the creative vision of the version of the film scheduled to be screened on September 18th, we feel it is only appropriate that we remove this film," TIFF said in a statement.

The producers of the film called the decision "ill-considered".

"We have always loved launching our films here, but feel that in this particular case there has been an ill-considered decision made against our rights," their statement read.

The thriller centres on a clairvoyant, played by Amber Heard, who is aware of the time and place of her death, but does not know the perpetrator - one of two strikingly different suitors. It is narrated by Billy Bob Thornton's character - an author who has moved to London to try to overcome his writer's block - who is determined to intercept the killer. Depp has a cameo role in the film.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amber Heard and husband Johnny Depp both star in the Martin Amis adaptation, which sees Heard playing a doomed clairvoyant

Cullen - who wants his name removed from the film - claims producers "in creating their own version of the film... have interjected scenes and footage that are highly offensive and neither appear in the script nor are a part of the film that [he] was asked to direct,'' according to legal papers.

The 17-page filing from Cullen and his Motion Theory company cites "9/11 jumpers edited against pornography, as well as juxtaposing the holiest city in Islam against mind-control" among the offensive imagery added by producers.

Along with the allegations about content, the legal action states producers failed to properly finance the film and haven't properly paid Cullen for his work and expenses, which total more than $1m (£640,000).

'Director's Cut'

"Sadly, Mathew can't deal with the fact that he does not control the final cut of the movie,'' said the statement released by publicist Maxine Leonard, on behalf of the producers.

"He was given two deadlines to deliver a 'director's cut' and missed both deadlines. His guild has rules for withdrawing his name from the picture, and he missed those deadlines.''

Cullen argues that he was prevented from completing the director's cut. Best known as a director of music videos, London Fields marks his debut feature film.

Hanley, whose wife Roberta wrote the screenplay to London Fields, has produced films including Spring Breakers and the critically acclaimed American Psycho.

London Fields was given a press screening at Toronto before the decision to remove it from the line-up. The Independent gave the film a one-star review calling it "car-crash film-making".

Variety said Cullen "genuinely deserves credit", but added "sometimes you have to try to adapt a seemingly unadaptable book just to learn how truly unadaptable it is".

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