The LA Times exclusive tells a story that begins with Singleton’s hit film Hustle & Flow. After receiving rave reviews at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the hip hop-related drama created a bidding frenzy among Hollywood studios. Despite the fact the other studios offered Singleton more money, the esteemed director chose Paramount. Not only had the film studio agreed to pay 9million bucks to the film, but they promised to distribute 2 more films of Singleton’s choosing with 3.5 million dollar budgets.
Hustle & Flow was produced and financed by Singleton himself, and became a critical and financial success earning 22 milli in the US as well as an Oscar. Nonetheless, 6 long years after the deal was inked, Paramount never followed through with their agreement in regards to the other two films. So on Wednesday, John Singleton filed a suit with the LA County Superior Court demanding Paramount (and MTV Films) pay 20 million dollars for failing to honor their agreement.
“I’d always had a great relationship with Paramount, going back to being an intern on the lot when I was at USC,” Singleton told the LA Times. “But a deal’s a deal and they didn’t honor the deal. I could have sold ‘Hustle & Flow’ for more money to someone else, but Paramount promised something special — giving me the ability to make two low-budget films with young filmmakers and great talent. All I’ve ever done is make money for Paramount. I’ve lived up to all the deals I’ve signed and it should work both ways.”
Paramount’s rebuttal: “Paramount was hoping that John Singleton would produce two more pictures before his agreement with our studio ended in 2010, but that did not happen. Instead, he went on to direct ‘Abduction’ for Lionsgate. Paramount fulfilled all of its obligations and his claims have absolutely no merit.”
The innovative director had high hopes that his deal with Paramount would put the spotlight on his skills as a producer as well. “The model I wanted to set up is a lot like the model other people are going after — to make small movies that have a real pop-culture value,” says Singleton, whose thriller “Abduction” starred Taylor Lautner. “It’s worked with films like ‘Juno’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ because there’s a niche audience that just isn’t served by the big Hollywood franchises.” However, he claims after Paramount execs continually shot down various forms of film proposals, Singleton began to read the writing on the wall. “They just kept thwarting my efforts to make any of the movies,” he says. “I gave them a number of projects and they were all rejected. It became plain that they weren’t going to honor the deal.”
The LA Times states: “the suit contends that after years of haggling, Paramount began “asserting self-imposed, non-existent conditions on the puts that prevented Singleton from making the pictures.” The biggest bone of contention is that roughly four years after the deal was signed, when Singleton’s representatives began showing concern about the deal being honored, Paramount told them that Singleton had to deliver scripted, fully completed films by Jan. 22, 2010 — five years after the original deal was signed.”
Singleton’s lawsuit insists that none of these conditions were in the original agreement, saying that Paramount “actively concealed and failed to disclose these conditions” to Singleton at the time of the Hustle & Flow negotiations.
“This is about me as a producer and a business person,” Singleton says. “I invested my time and money in this project. It was about being an entrepreneur. I thought I had a partner in Paramount, but that’s not what happened. Whatever films I wanted to make there, it feels like no one was ever listening.”