Monday 24 July 2017

This Is Spinal Tap's mock rock stars sue French film studio for £320m

Spinal Tap, when they played the 2009 Glastonbury Festival
Spinal Tap, when they played the 2009 Glastonbury Festival

This Is Spinal Tap stars Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean have joined comedian Harry Shearer to sue a French film studio for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The four stars say they are owed the money for creating the hit mockumentary and are collectively seeking 400 million US dollars (£320 million).

Reiner, Guest and McKean have joined a lawsuit filed by Shearer on October 17 2016 against French company Vivendi and its subsidiary StudioCanal, which claims the studio withheld profits from the film, its music and its merchandise.

It says the company engaged in anti-competitive and unfair business practices, as well as fraudulent accounting, directly related to its management of This Is Spinal Tap.

Reiner directed and narrated the 1984 spoof documentary about the British rock band.

Guest played Spinal Tap's lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, McKean played lead singer David St Hubbins and Shearer was bassist Derek Smalls.

The stars are seeking the 400 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages from Vivendi, up from the 125 million US dollars (£100 million) originally claimed by Shearer's company Century of Progress Productions.

The lawsuit says the creators have been told that global music sales from the soundtrack album total just 98 US dollars (£78) and they are only entitled to share 81 US dollars (£65) between them from global merchandising sales.

It says: " This Is Spinal Tap and its music, which Shearer, Guest, McKean and Reiner co-wrote, including such songs as Sex Farm and Stonehenge, have remained popular for more than 30 years, and have earned considerable sums for the French conglomerate Vivendi S.A.

"But not for the creators.

"Defendant Vivendi and its agents, including StudioCanal executive Ron Halpern, have engaged in anti-competitive business practices by manipulating the accounting between Vivendi film and music subsidiaries and have engaged in fraud to deprive the Spinal Tap creators of a fair return for their work."

Shearer said the addition of his co-stars to the lawsuit, which was filed in California, will only help the claim.

He added: " Their participation will help demonstrate the opaque and misleading conduct at the heart of this case. We're even louder now."

Reiner, who also directed The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men, said: " Fair reward for artistic endeavour has long been raised by those on the wrong end of the equation.

"What makes this case so egregious is the prolonged and deliberate concealment of profit and the purposeful manipulation of revenue allocation between various Vivendi subsidiaries - to the detriment of the creative talent behind the band and film.

"Such anti-competitive practices need to be exposed. I am hoping this lawsuit goes to 11."

McKean said: "This Is Spinal Tap was the result of four very stubborn guys working very hard to create something new under the sun.

"The movie's influence on the last three decades of film comedy is something we are very proud of.

"But the buck always stopped somewhere short of Rob, Harry, Chris and myself. It's time for a reckoning. It's only right."

A representative for Vivendi has been contacted for comment.

A spokesman for Vivendi said the company did not comment on ongoing litigations.

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