It seems that barely a month can go by without Harvey Weinstein getting himself embroiled in one controversy or another and as per usual, he’s the master of spinning it into a good publicity opportunity. As you may have heard, he’s currently beefing with Warner Bros. , over the title of the upcoming Lee Daniels‘ movie “The Butler.” WB is absurdly staking their copyright claim to the name because it’s the same as a 1916 silent short in the studio’s vault that they didn’t even produce, but merely acquired eons ago. TWC basically lost their MPAA hearing, which gave rights to the title to Warner Bros and Harvey has been fighting ever since, hiring a high priced lawyer to represent him and so on. But what’s really at the heart of this? Money. Of course.
Harvey hit CBS Morning News to talk about what’s going on (while also stumping for a movie that may or may not be called “The Butler”) and to put it bluntly— WB wants his Middle Earth money. You see, The Weinstein Company has a small, but still lucrative 2.5% stake in that franchise (they snapped up the rights intitially years ago) and quite simply, WB wants that cash.
“We did try to settle it,” Harvey told CBS host Gayle King. “I went through this with ‘Bully‘ and I’ve gone through this all my life. My dad taught me to fight injustice. This is unjust. This movie is coming out August 16. I was asked by two execs at Warner Brothers, which I’m happy testify to, that if I gave them back the rights to ‘The Hobbit’ they would drop the claim. For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic.”
Damn. It’s easy to see then why Harvey isn’t letting this go. Trading a stake in “The Hobbit” franchise for the name of a movie just isn’t fair at all— 2.5% of billions of dollars over the next few years will certainly add up. And moreover, this whole thing is absurd.
“…122 times in the history of movies, titles have been used and repeated and our understanding with them was that this was just going to be the simple process that it always is. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have a movie out called ‘[The] Heat.’ Jason Statham is shooting a movie called ‘Heat.’ Bob DeNiro and Al Pacino made a movie called ‘Heat’ and ten years before that Burt Reynolds made a movie called ‘Heat,” Harv pointed out. “And ‘Unstoppable‘ has been done 5 times. 122 instances. [Warner Bros] told us they were going to do the normal thing, the normal business they practice and I think there’s an ulterior motive.”
Well, now we not what that motive is. So, are Warner Bros being dicks or should Harv just give it up and change the name? (Btw, the MPAA ruling means they can’t use the word “butler” at all). Watch Harvey’s interview and a new clip from the movie (timely!) below.