The battle over the fate of Watchmen took an intriguing turn Thursday when Lloyd Levin, a producer on the hotly anticipated movie, posted an open letter online about the ongoing legal battle over the distribution rights to the graphic novel. In his candid post, Levin gave Fox a tongue-lashing for taking the matter to court — especially since Fox gave the script a “flat pass” in 2005 because “executives there felt it was one of the most unintelligible pieces of s— they had read in years.” Levin went on to laud Warner Bros. (a division of EW parent Time Warner) for taking a chance on the script, which not only clocked in at 150 pages but required a “hard” R rating for its violence and a budget north of $100 million, despite the fact that it came with no stars.
“Warners supported the whole package and I cannot begin to emphasize how ballsy and unprecedented a move this was on the part of a major Hollywood studio,” wrote Levin, who produced the movie with Lawrence Gordon and Thomas Tull, among others. “Shouldn’t Warner Brothers be entitled to the spoils — if any — of the risk they took in supporting and making Watchmen? Should Fox have any claim on something they could have had but chose to neither support nor show any interest in?”
Fox, which prevailed in court last month when a judge ruled that it had distribution rights to the popular franchise, immediately issued a response to Levin’s letter: “We appreciate Mr. Levin’s passion for this project, but he has neglected basic facts and legal rulings. First, Fox notified Warner Brothers of our rights in this project months before production on the film began; they chose to ignore our rights on this occasion and several times after that and proceeded at their own risk.
“Two, only after having our rights in the film deliberately ignored by Warner Brothers did we take the action of filing litigation in order to have those rights recognized. In (the judge’s) Christmas Eve order, he specifically ruled that Warner Brothers had been timely notified and that Fox, in fact, had the rights we asserted. There is no question of who is right and who is wrong.”
Warner Bros. and Fox will return to court Jan. 20 to discuss remedies, including the fate of Watchmen‘s release on March 6.