Lakeview grad sues actor’s production firm

A Warren-Cortland native is suing Golden Globe-winning actor James Franco’s production company, claiming he was denied proper credit and other benefits for his work on the screenplay for “The Disaster Artist.”

According to a story published Thursday in the Los Angeles Times, the suit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court claims Ryan Moody, a 2004 Lakeview High School graduate, sold his screenplay for “The Disaster Artist” to Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, for $5,000. In exchange, he was supposed to receive an associate producer credit on that film and get the opportunity to work as a writer and director on a similarly budgeted future project. The budget for that future film was supposed to be $5 million to $10 million.

The industry publication Variety posted a link to the lawsuit, and one of the exhibits submitted is described as an email exchange between Moody and Franco where Franco writes on April 2, 2014: “(Producers) Seth (Rogen) and evan (Goldberg) and (James) weaver want you on as an assoc producer and to give notes on every draft. Cool?”

The suit, which lists Rabbit Bandini Productions and Point Grey Pictures as defendants, claims Moody did not receive the negotiated credit on “The Disaster Artist,” and Rabbit Bandini Productions has reduced the budget for that future film to $50,000.

Contacted Friday, Moody said he could not comment on the pending litigation but said, “I think the complaint speaks for itself, and I stand by the work that I did.”

Franco was one of his teachers when Moody was a film student at UCLA. In a 2012 interview with the Tribune Chronicle, Moody described Franco as, “an excellent teacher with a ton of experience, not only as an actor but he’s directed several films.”

Franco directed “The Disaster Artist,” which tells the story of the making of “The Room,” a 2003 film that has developed a cult following among those who believe it is the worst film ever made. Franco plays filmmaker-star Tommy Wiseau, and he won a Golden Globe in January for best performance by an actor in a motion picture — musical or comedy. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the credited screenwriters on “The Disaster Artist,” are nominated for best adapted screenplay at tonight’s Academy Awards.

The film is based on a book of the same name by Greg Sestero, who costarred in “The Room.” According to the L.A. Times story on the lawsuit, Moody wrote five drafts of “The Disaster Artist” in 2013 and ’14 before Franco told him he wanted to use more established writers. Moody is claiming in the suit that the finished movie contains elements from his drafts that cannot be found in Sestero’s book.

Moody, who lived in Warren until his family moved to Cortland at age 11, came back to Trumbull County in 2012 to make the short film “Last Call,” which was shot primarily at the Horseshoe Bar in downtown Warren.