Hollywood star Eva Green says she has been unfairly ‘painted as a diva’ in a bitter legal war with producers and financiers over a doomed sci-fi film, as the High Court trial began on Thursday.
The actress signed on to star in A Patriot alongside Helen Hunt and Charles Dance in 2019 and says it was a “passion project” to highlight the climate catastrophe.
But the project was derailed by a bitter falling out between Green, financiers White Lantern, and executive producers Jake Seal and Terry Bird.
Green has been accused of “unreasonable demands” and a covert attempt to sabotage production, but says the film was fatally undermined by efforts to make it “on a shoestring budget”.
In opening remarks, Green’s attorney Edmund Cullen KC said the star was being targeted in a lawsuit “designed to tarnish his name.”
“This case is designed to portray my client as a diva, to win headlines and damage her reputation, and an attempt to intimidate her into not fighting the case,” she said.
He said the former Bond girlfriend was desperate to make the film but was “at odds” with financiers who could never secure an originally planned budget of nearly £8m.
“It was a passion project for her,” she said. “The theme of the film is about an issue that is very close to her heart, namely climate catastrophe.
“She loved the script and wanted the film to be made. She went out of her way to do it.
“He repeatedly agreed to postpone the start of principal photography and agreed to move from Ireland to the UK.
“He repeatedly offers to use part of his fee to finance production costs.”
Mr Cullen continued: “Let’s just say it’s quite extraordinary to find that he is now faced with a case where he was somehow trying to undermine the project all along by making unreasonable demands.”
Green sued for her £830,000 stake from the doomed project, but then faced a counterclaim that she had deliberately sabotaged the film.
He is due to testify on Monday next week, but missed today’s hearing due to a conflict of commitments.
In messages released before her trial, the French actress, 42, branded Mr Seal a “bad guy” and a “crazy”, called herself “Cruella” and called Mr Bird a “fucking moron”.
Green’s legal team insisted the messages “must be seen in context.”
“They are essentially an informal outpouring of a stream of consciousness as events unfold.
“The language is unguarded and sometimes forcefully, and perhaps carelessly delivered.
“They’re contradictory and volatile, reflecting the personalities of those involved and the extreme tension surrounding the film’s production.”
Green, the star of movies like Sin City 2 and Dumbo, is accused of making unreasonable demands for crew members and changing shooting schedules, but she claims she has those powers as an executive producer.
She is accused of pretending to be satisfied with the production while privately looking for a way out of the film, allegedly dubbing it “Operation Fake it”.
In response, Green says he was trying to make the best quality film possible and had concerns about the project’s financing and direction.
Representing White Lantern, Max Mallin KC said the film project fell through after a “clash between Ms. Green’s expectations and reality”, accusing her of “failing to responsibly engage in pre-production and repeatedly making demands unreasonable to White Lantern”.
In written submissions, he argued that there was evidence Green began expressing reservations about the production shortly after signing up.
He sent messages saying it was “impossible” to work while Mr Seal was involved, and suggested that “the soul will die” if he had to attend studies in Hampshire, adding: “That’s why I’m retiring.”
While Green denies she pulled out of the project, Mr Mallin said the actress nearly pulled out in July 2019 during the move from Ireland to the UK when she expressed a “bad feeling in my heart”.
In September, Green said of Mr Seal: ‘Jake is a mad dictator who is planning to make a B-movie on the cheap’
In written submissions to the court, Mr. Cullen called the case against Green “fuzzy and rambling.”
“It appears to be designed to tarnish the name of an actor who hasn’t breached a contract or missed a day of shooting in a career spanning 20 years,” he said, suggesting that the executive producers “have tried to pin every production failure at Eva Green’s Door”.
Green’s team says the damages claim against him “is an attempt to piece together a false factual narrative.”
They continued: “Strangely Eva Green is widely criticized for her allegedly unreasonable behavior, when in fact the documentary evidence shows her constant efforts to ensure that the film was of the highest possible quality, even making repeated offers to contribute her own funds to the hiring of an adequate crew”.
She says she was “shocked and appalled” when a financial grant was not obtained and production was moved out of Ireland.
The court heard the film’s early lenders offer $1.25 million, but found it was “at risk” with a first-time producer and director.
Green says Mr. Seal was brought in to try and get the money back, while financiers only offered another $150,000 despite the film’s reshoots looming.
“They wanted the film to be made on a shoestring budget,” Cullen said. “Eva Green was involved in this mess.”
Mr. Mallin said Green had a “commitment to the movie he wanted to make, but he not only didn’t have a commitment, but a vitriolic aversion to the movie White Lantern can and was going to make.”
The court heard that both Hunt and Dance had dropped out of the film at the time of its fall 2019 collapse. Actors Tim Robbins and Kathy Bates were initially attached to the film.
Green is against White Lantern Film (Britannica) Limited and a second defendant, SMC Specialty Finance LLC.
The process continues.