EXCLUSIVE: There is a disturbance in the Force.
On the same day it became public that Star Wars projects from Kevin Feige and Patty Jenkins are now dormant, Lucasfilm has been hit with a breach of contract lawsuit over the upcoming The Acolyte.
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Ballers executive producer Karyn McCarthy has taken the Kathleen Kennedy-run Disney division to court over being pink-slipped from the Leslye Headland-created series last year after just a few weeks of work.
What makes this action all the more bitter and telling of streamer competition for top talent is that UTA-repped McCarthy was being actively courted by Apple at the same time to help run their eventual Colin Farrell-starring PI series Sugar, according to the March 7 filing (read it here) by Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP. Deciding to throw her lot in with potential long-term commitment to Lucasfilm and The Acolyte in early April 2022, McCarthy found herself in an employment Death Star — and no cash to show for it at the sudden end, it seems.
Or put in bottom-line terms: “As a result of its bad faith and wrongful termination, Defendants deprived Ms. McCarthy significant employment, from which she would have earned millions of dollars over the life of the series.”
After setting up the corporate pursuit by Apple and Lucasfilm and how McCarthy was “the choice” for The Acolytethe jury-seeking complaint details how she got to work quickly on April 7, 2022, and how a “broad strokes” agreement, full of UK hotel allowances and per diems, was sent to her agent David Morris on April 11. In fact , in that email to Morris from Lucasfilm VP Physical Productions Candice Campos, the exec makes a point of saying how “we really want to make this work!”
Then it all seems to go wrong, fast.
“Two weeks later, without explanation, without reason, without justification, Lucasfilm told McCarthy it wanted out of the deal,” reads the 12-page filing in Los Angeles Superior Court. “By this time, the Apple offer was gone – Apple had to move on and found another executive producer for Sugar. McCarthy now had neither deal.
As disappointing as that new situation was, it seems like McCarthy took it in the spirit of this being show business and not showing friends and made for the exit, expecting to be compensated. That’s where things appeared to get messy even by Tinseltown standards:
When McCarthy went to Lucasfilm and requested to be paid, Lucasfilm denied that they even had an agreement, even though (1) they had made their offer, containing all of the material deal points; (20 McCarthy accepted that offer; (3) Lucasfilm had McCarthy start right away; and (4) Lucasfilm sent to McCarthy a memorandum of agreement, memorializing the terms including that McCarthy had already begun working, In further disregard of McCarthy and the work she had already done, Lucasfilm offered to pay McCarthy $5,000 for a single day’s work.
McCarthy rejected Lucasfilm’s anemic and insulting offer, and even though Lucasfilm acknowledged that McCarthy had, in fact, performed work for it, Lucasfilm never paid McCarthy for that work. McCarthy is therefore forced to bring this action to hold Lucasfilm accountable for its egregious breach of their agreement, its bad faith denial of that agreement, and for the statutory penalties McCarthy is entitled to for its failure to pay her for her work.
With that earlier statement of the EP losing out on “millions of dollars” hanging in the air, McCarthy’s attorneys Patty Glaser, Robert Allen and Matthew W. Bernstein are asking for a wide range of unspecified damages.
Reps for Lucasfilm did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. If and when they do, we will update.
Ace for The Acolyte itself, there is no Disney+ debut date yet for the eight-episode series starring Amandla Stenberg. However, we do know that filming has been going on since October 2022 on the other side of the pond. Seemingly with the tone of the Tony Gilroy-created Andor, mystery-thriller The Acolyte is set in the murky end of the High Republic, which is the era before the Star Wars flicks kick off.
All that aside, with Glaser on one side and Disney lawyers on the other, this legal stand-off over McCarthy’s money and deal may be where the real light sabers come out.
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