Monday 24 October 2016

Irish Harry Potter star 'unhappy staying in a five-star hotel during film and wanted his own apartment', court hears

Tim Healy

Published 07/04/2016 | 13:42

Devon Murray played the character of Seamus Finnigan
Devon Murray played the character of Seamus Finnigan

AN actor who worked as a child in the Harry Potter film series told the High Court an agent's agreement signed by his parents was "forced on us" without legal advice.

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Devon Murray (27), who played the role of Seamus Finnigan in the series, also denied he had never told lawyers who represented for the family until this week about his dissatisfaction with the service being provided by Neil Brooks, trading as Neil Brooks Management, or that the first time it was mentioned was when he came to court.

Mr Murray was being cross-examined in an action by Mr Brooks for recovery of €286,000 in commission fees he says he is owed by the Murrays who deny his claims.

The Murrays claim they sacked him while Devon was working on the Harry Potter 3 film following an incident in which the boy, who was 13 at the time, was photographed smoking a cigarette on the London set.

They claim when they sought him to help them deal with subsequent adverse worldwide publicity, and to address the security situation

 over the taking of the photograph, he did not act.   Mr Brooks said he  was in South Africa at the time helping his seriously ill sister.

Mr Brooks also said the incident over the smoking was the responsibility of his guardian and asked "what could I have done".

He said the Murrays were unhappy with the arrangements while Devon stayed in London during filming, including wanting an apartment rather than the five-star hotel he was in so his mother could cook for the boy and having his own driver to take him to the set as other child actors got.

Mr Brooks said he provided the apartment and that Devon wanted to be driven in a Lexus.  Mrs Murray denied this and said Devon was a boy obsessed with cars and all he had said was he would love to ride in a Lexus.

Mr Brooks said he arranged an Irish teacher as part of Devon's schooling while filming but this was turned down. Mrs Murray disputed this and said there was no teacher after the first year.

When Devon said he wanted his own sound system for his dressing room, Mr Brooks said he did not agree he should have a "boom box" as it would cause a disturbance for the other actors.

Mr Brooks was being cross-examined by Mrs Murray because last Tuesday, solicitors for the family asked to cease representing them because they could not get proper instructions and funds for barristers.  Mrs Murray said they had no money for solicitors.

Devon Murray told the court that in the early days he had a bond with Mr Brooks because he was away so much and did not get to see his own dad.   However, by Harry Potter 3, there had been difficulties over when they were receiving cheques as well as problems getting in touch with Mr Brooks.  "It was like Where's Wally", he said.

In 2003, the Murrays signed a new agreement where Mr Brooks 12.5 per cent fee was to be increased to 15 per cent on the basis that Devon would get higher payment from the film makers Warner Brothers for his work.  Mr Brooks said he did this and Devon's fees went up from  st£20,000 and st£30,000 for films 1 and 2 to st£50,000 and £65,000 for 3 and 4.

However, Devon told the court, he found out that all other child actors got the same pay as part of a general across-the-board payment for those actors in his particular category, including those with no agent.

When the smoking incident occurred and Warner Brothers complained, both he and his mother rang Mr Brooks telling him he was fired.

"I thought an agent was going to be able to magically make this (adverse publicity) disappear, but I was wrong".

Under cross-examination by Gary McCarty SC, for Brooks, he said they had signed the 2003 contract without legal advice and felt they had to do it because he had made so many good friends on the Harry Potter set.

Asked was he saying he was he was forced into signing it, he said yes.

Asked did he tell this to his lawyers, including junior and senior counsel, he said he had told them.

He could not explain why it was not put in as part of his defence by his former solicitors.

He said he had been receiving fees for what are known as "residuals" - money from DVD and other box office sales - over the years but they had at this stage dwindled to around st£1,000 per month.   He said he had to rent out the house he bought to pay the mortgage and moved back in with his parents in Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said he would give a decision Friday (April 8).

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