Every industry has contracts of some sort: written, oral, formal, informal…the list can go on. Hollywood and the film industry have a long and storied history of contracts. This means that the industry also has a long and storied history of contract disputes. This week we are exploring contract disputes in Hollywood. Read on to learn about Hollywood’s long history of contracts and some modern Hollywood contract disputes.
The Studio System
The studio system in Hollywood is perhaps the grandmother of intense contracts. Stars in the system were milked for all they were worth, and their contracts were all consuming. The contracts covered the usual stuff, such as pay and expected amount of work for the year. However, the contracts also gave studios control over the appearance of the stars, down to an exact weight they had to maintain. After the decline of the studio system, Hollywood contracts slowly shifted to a different format.
The Handshake Contract
Handshake contracts are oral contracts sealed with a handshake. This type of contract is common in an industry where deals are made over lunches and dinners. However, handshake contracts are not legally binding in most legal systems. This has caused plenty of issues in the film industry.
Modern Contract Disputes
Contract disputes in modern Hollywood have the potential to drag on for years. There have been many times in which the legal battles outlast the stars themselves. Read on to learn about some of the most intense Hollywood legal battles in the last couple of decades.
Suit: James Gandolfini Vs. HBO
Gandolfini is best known for playing patriarch Tony Soprano on The Sopranos. In fact, the show is the reason he sued the home network of HBO. The star wanted a raise from $400k per episode to at least $1 million per episode. Gandolfini sued for breach of contract and HBO countersued for $100 million in lost profits.
The suit never made it very far, because everyone involved had too much money at stake to walk away from the show. HBO and Gandolfini never made the settlement public, but the entire process happened rather quickly. The star had waited until the last minute before taping season five, in order to add pressure to the studio. Both parties came to an agreement in a matter of weeks.
The Potential Suit: Farrah Fawcett Vs. Producer Aaron Spelling
This lawsuit was never actually filed, instead, Charlie’s Angels producer Aaron Spelling used it as a warning shot for TV star Farrah Fawcett. Fawcett walked away from the hit show after only a single season and Spelling did not like that plan. He threatened to sue the actress for breach of contract. They reached a compromise before full legal action had to be taken by either side though. Fawcett was a recurring guest star after season one.