ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Friday, October 20, 2023

Weekend Frivolity: Contractual Chivalry

Hall BerryWe learned from Simon Gallager, writing on Screen Rant,  that director Matthew Vaughan quit as director of the X-Men III movie, despite his great success with earlier iterations of the franchise.  Mr. Vaughan claims that he quit in protest of a dirty trick that the studio was planning to play on Halle Berry (right).

According to Mr. Vaughan, the studio was trying to lure Ms. Berry back into the sequel by representing that it would have a much more prominent story line for Ms. Berry's character, Storm, than they actually planned to give her.  Mr. Vaughan discovered the script and thought it was an interesting idea -- it opened with Storm saving an African community during a drought by -- you guessed it! -- making it rain.  The executives told Vaughan that the script was just a ploy to get Ms. Berry to sign on for the sequel.  Once she had signed, their plan was to pitch the script . 

Mr. Vaughan took note of how they treated an Academy Award winning actor and decided he did not want to work for the studio.  Vaughan got the "You'll never work in this town again" speech.  I thought it was "You'll never have lunch in this town again." No? Anyway, he came back and made another X-Men film . I'm sure it was great.

All's well that ends well, I suppose.  Ms. Berry did get a larger role in X-Men, although there was no scene in which Storm saves Africans from a drought.  Instead, she took over Charles Xavier's school for mutants.  Taking over for Patrick Stewart?  Tough act to follow, but a nice coup for Ms. Berry.

The story highlights one of the many areas where my life experience as an academic limits my knowledge of how contracts work in the real world.  Clearly, scripts change in production all the time.  Scenes, perhaps whole characters perish with the other detritus on the cutting room floor.  We all know of Shirley MacLaine's case over Bloomer Girls, and Sandra Locke's suit over "Clint's deal."  I can't recall a suit over an editing decision.  Is there relevant contract language?  Does relational contracts theory explain why such suits rarely arise?

Instead of X-Men III, Mr. Vaughan made Stardust, an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel.  What the heck was I doing in 2007?  Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and a host of others!

Celebrity Contracts, Film, True Contracts | Permalink