Dan Bilzerian to Sue Hollywood Filmmakers Over Chopped Screen Role
Buying one’s way into a movie career by investing with cash-strapped film producers, but it’s been a star-crossed path of late for California high-staked poker player Dan Bilzerian, whose promised small role in the upcoming Peter Berg film Lone Survivor turned out to be a lot smaller than Bilzerian thought he’d bargained for, with a new $1.2 million lawsuit filed on Thursday against producers Randall Emmett, George Furla and their jointly owned production company the result.
The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story about Bilzerian’s lawsuit earlier this weekend. According to the complaint, Bilzerian paid $1 million for eight minutes of screen time and 80 words of dialogue in the film, which stars Mark Wahlberg in the story of a 2005 Navy SEAL mission in which four of the five members of the SEAL team were killed while searching for an important Taliban leader.
Instead, Bilzerian’s role as Sr. Chief Dan Healy was trimmed to under a minute and includes only one line of dialogue, despite the role allegedly being written into the film in exchange for Bilzerian’s million-dollar investment.
The complaint includes a “Memorandum of Agreement” between “Blitz” Bilzerian and the film’s producers that spells out the nature of Bilzerian’s role:
Acting Services of Bilzerian
(a) The parties acknowledge that Production Company has caused Peter Berg (“Berg”) to write into the Screenplay the role of Sr. Chief Healy to be performed by Bilzerian in the Picture (the “Role”). The parties further acknowledge that Berg has meaningfully consulted with Bilzerian in advance of writing the Role and taken into consideration Bilzerian’s thoughts, ideas and concerns in writing the Role. The Role, as written into the shooting draft of the Screenplay, shall not be less than 80 spoken words. Production Company and Producers agree that Bilzerian shall appear recognizably in the Role in the final cut of the Picture submitted to Universal (the “Delivery Cut”) for not less than eight (8) minutes and Bilzerian shall not speak less than eighty (80) words of dialogue (not including any voiceover that Bilzerian may provide) in such Delivery Cut. Production Company also agrees that Bilzerian shall be credited in the end crawl adjacent to other cast. The Producers acknowledge that Bilzerian appearing recognizably in the Role in the Delivery Cut for not less than eight (8) minutes and Bilzerian speaking not less than eighty (80) words of dialogue in the Delivery Cut is of the essence of making the Loan and represents valuable and material consideration in exchange for the Loan. The Producers also recognize that proof of damages suffered by Bilzerian in the event that Producers breach this provision of the Agreement will be costly, difficult and inconvenient. Accordingly, the Producers, jointly and severally, agree to the following:
From there, the memorandum continues with a list of penalties to be assessed for each minute of film time and ten (10) words of dialogue Bilzerian was shorted, until subsection (iv) — where Bilzerian’s contracted role was shortened by more than half — is supposed to kick in a full refund of the “Loan” plus “Interest”. “LOL”:
(iv) In the event that Bilzerian is recognizable in the Role for less than 4 minutes and/or Bilzerian speaks less than 50 words of dialogue in the Delivery Cut, at Bilzerian’s option, Producers shall pay the sum of $1,000,000 as a purchase of all of Bilzerian’s right to repayment of the Loan … [which the Producers can then take out of the film’s proceeds] … plus pay a 20% premium thereon (i.e., $200,000). For avoidance of doubt, the maximum amount payable by Producers to Bilzerian pursuant to this Paragraph 1.a.iv is $1,200,000.
This all seems pretty clear cut, and subsequent clauses also make clear that Bilzerian would be allowed to pre-screen the delivery cut, and that producers Emmett and Furla would make a “good faith effort” to keep Universal Pictures from insisting that Bilzerian’s role be chopped. Even then, Bilzerian was supposed to get a co-producer credit for the film.
The complaint alleges that Bilzerian learned of his chopped role in Lone Survivor in mid-June and verified it upon his private pre-screening, which occurred later that month. Bilzerian notified Emmett and Furla of the breach and demanded the refund and interest within ten days, and received nothing. Additional compensatory and punitive damages beyond the $1.2 million could be awarded if Bilzerian prevails.
As to why Blitz’s role was cut when such specific provisions were included as part of the loan, that’s not really specified in the complaint or any of the reports on the lawsuit to date. Perhaps Bilzerian can’t act? Even a California playboy such as Blitz has to find something to do, and it looks as if a… lame poker cliche coming… wait for it… acting career just isn’t in the cards.