Mel Gibson sues to stop release of his comeback film

Mel Gibson is following up the success of his Oscar-nominated film ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ by suing the studio behind his latest project in hopes of halting its release.

The Australian-born actor and director, 61, was set to make his return as a leading man in ‘The Professor and the Madman’ alongside Oscar-winner Sean Penn and British thespian Natalie Dormer later this year.

The film ran into post-production troubles however that have now resulted in both Gibson and writer-director Farhad Safinia filing legal complaints against Voltage Pictures.

The duo previously worked together on ‘Apocalypto,’ which was written by Safina and directed by Gibson.

Voltage meanwhile is the company behind Oscar-winning films such as ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’


Gibson and his production company Icon were the first to file suit over the summer after learning that Voltage was showing a cut of the film at festivals to interested buyers.

That suit stated that Voltage breached an agreement in Gibson’s contract that gave him the power to choose which final cut of the film he wanted to release.

At the time of that filing in July, only Voltage Pictures had made a cut of the film.  

‘The Agreements require that things such as material changes to the screenplay, change of director from Mr. Safinia to someone else, the final production budget and schedule, and selection of filming locations be agreed to by Icon and Mr. Gibson,’ read the complaint.

‘Further, as extra insurance that his vision of the film was protected, Mr. Gibson has the right, if necessary, to select the final cut of the film that is released between a cut prepared by Mr. Safinia and a cut prepared by Voltage.’

The complaint also noted that Safina was not able to even produce a final cut as he needed to film additional scenes, having not had the chance to shoot the entire screenplay.

Gibson is seeking damages from Voltage for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and promissory fraud.

He also is asking that he be granted the right to terminate his co-production deal and regain the rights to the film.

Safina made his filing against Voltage earlier this week in US District Court, Central District of California, accusing the company of defaming him when they said in a statement that he and Gibson had ‘failed to live up to their professional and contractual responsibilities.’

That statement was made to the Los Angeles Times in the wake of Gibson’s filing back in August. 

In a Declaration that was filed on Wednesday, Safina also demanded that Voltage hand over their cut of the film so that if can be destroyed

He included his screenplay for the picture as evidence in the Declaration as well, thus spoiling the film for any individuals who chose to seek out the legal document.

Safina, like Gibson, is claiming in his filing that Voltage failed to allow the production to shoot necessary scenes at Oxford College in England during filming last year and then hijacked the film.

‘Defendants took the existing footage and pieced it together themselves without my vision or input. I never authorized Defendants to make their version of the film,’ Safina states in his filing.

He goes on to claim that the film has been shopped around to Neflix and at both the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals. 

Voltage meanwhile responded to Gibson in court papers earlier this week in which they casually dismissed his complaints. 

‘Although Plaintiffs have alleged that Defendants material breaches’ have caused Plaintiffs to have been damaged, the important question is what Plaintiffs have lost by alleged failure to shoot in Oxford, England, or the alleged failure to receive a final budget for approval,’ reads the production company’s response.

‘The answer is nothing.’

‘Professor’ is a period drama about James Murray (played by Gibson), the Scottish lexicographer who first compiled the Oxford English Dictionary and then edited the famed resource guide for over 30 years.

The film tells the story of Murray’s relationship with Dr. William Chester Minor (played by Penn) an American army surgeon who was one of the biggest individual contributors to the initial text despite being held in an insane asylum for murder at the time.

It also examines the relationship between Dr. Minor and the wife of his victim Eliza Merrett (played by Dormer), who was left to raise six children on her own after her husband’s death. 

Gibson has been developing the film for two decades and called the project a ‘labor of love’ in his July court filing.

The screenplay is based on the Simon Winchester novel ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne.’