After eight films and billions at the box office, Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise is launching its first spinoff next year with Hobbs and Shaw, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Engines have started and production is underway on the movie, but the road just got a little bumpier behind the scenes. Neal Moritz, a producer on all of the films in the Fast and Furious franchise, has hit Universal Pictures with a lawsuit over Hobbs and Shaw.
The lawsuit, filed this morning in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Universal Pictures is in breach of oral contract and committed promissory fraud when it removed Neal Moritz as lead producer on Hobbs and Shaw. Neal Moritz wants to be reinstated as lead producer on the spinoff or be paid out “tens of millions of dollars in damages in lost compensation,” according to Deadline.
The suit alleges that a few days before filming was set to begin on Hobbs and Shaw, Universal wanted to change Neal Moritz’ oral producer deal and accept what the filing calls “substantially inferior financial terms” or be cut out of the spinoff completely. According to the filing, Neal Moritz was dropped as producer on the film after he did not agree to these new financial terms.
Allegedly the move to change Neal Moritz’s deal came at the eleventh hour, and Universal said it was because the film’s budget had increased, a point the lawsuit disputes. The filing also says that Universal exploited the producers’ ideas and year-and-a-half of work on the film while choosing not to honor his oral producer agreement.
On all of the other Fast and Furious films, Neal Moritz had pay or play protection, wherein he gets paid whether or not his services are used, a guarantee basically for the time he puts in. So although he says he put in time and worked on this film, he isn’t getting paid because he couldn’t agree on new financial terms for compensation.
According to the suit, there was a verbal deal struck after the first pitch meeting on the film last spring in which Neal Moritz was supposed to get $2 million in fixed compensation against 6% first dollar gross participation (basically a percentage of the film’s gross after it reaches the point where his $2 million is 6% of the film’s gross profits). The participation pool was supposedly much worse on the new deal proposed, and after some back and forth, they arrived at today’s move of Neal Moritz suing Universal over Hobbs and Shaw.
The lawsuit was just filed, so we don’t yet know if this thing will go to a trial (the lawsuit seeks a jury trial) or if the two sides will come to some sort of amended agreement to avoid a legal battle. Either way, I wouldn’t expect this to affect the film itself or its release date.
Hobbs and Shaw races into theaters on August 2, 2019. For all of the biggest movies heading to theaters next year, check out our 2019 release guide.