Last week, screenwriter John August tweeted about a movie he’d just watched on a flight from London: ”Saw I Love You Phillip Morris on my Virgin Atlantic flight. It’s good! Too bad it’s stuck in legal limbo.” Indeed, while the indie comedy, which stars Jim Carrey as a con artist who falls in love with his prison cellmate (Ewan McGregor), is playing on planes and in a number of foreign countries, where it has grossed more than $14 million, in the U.S. it has been grounded by legal and financial troubles for more than a year. ”This has been a heartbreak all around,” says a source close to the film.
Late last month, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing Consolidated Pictures Group, which bought domestic distribution rights to Phillip Morris in the wake of its warmly received debut at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, from releasing it. Having already had its premiere date bumped three times, the film saw its planned July 30 release scrubbed. ”CPG needed to pay $3 million, and they never paid a single dime,” says Dale Kinsella, a lawyer representing EuropaCorp, the Paris-based company that financed the film. CPG’s attorney Robert Chapman disputes EuropaCorp’s claim; the matter now heads to arbitration. The legal battle follows earlier reports that the movie, which is codirected by Bad Santa writers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, was reedited to tone down its gay content — reports that one person involved in the film insists are untrue. Despite its tortured history, a source close to the movie says other distributors have expressed interest in Phillip Morris: ”There’s going to be a happy ending to the story. It’ll get a release sometime later this year.” Hey, we’ve waited this long — what’s another few months?