On Tuesday, we provided a brief explainer about the rights issues behind that incredibly awkward Wheel of Time pilot starring Billy Zane that aired on FXX at 1:30 a.m on Monday. Amid all the turmoil, we and the rest of the internet tried to figure out (a) how a Wheel of Time pilot even came about, (b) why this particular production featured actor Billy Zane and nothing else, and (c) whose poor decision it was to air during paid programming hours. Harriet McDougal, the widow and former editor of deceased author Robert Jordan, claimed no knowledge of the pilot’s existence or airing. However, a new lawsuit claims otherwise.
On the same day the pilot was aired, McDougal released a statement on Facebook:
In it, she claims the production was made without her “knowledge or cooperation,” and that she never “never saw the script” or had any involvement whatsoever. We repeated the claim, as did many others. However, according to a new lawsuit, McDougal knew what was going on all along. That’s why she’s the defendant:
McDougal is now being sued for slander-of-title for making statements “with knowledge of their falsity” and for tortiously interfering with the company’s contractual relationships and prospective economic advantage. Having paid the author’s estate $630,000 for rights, the plaintiff is upset that “McDougal’s public comments have harmed Manetheren’s ability to enter into new contractual relationships, such as with Sony, both by calling into question the propriety of Manetheren’s rights in the Property and by causing public opinion to set against any film or television production that Manetheren might authorize.” (Via THR)
The details of the lawsuit against McDougal suggest she was directly involved in meetings that lead to the pilot’s creation. That, and a great deal of money was spent to keep her happy:
According to the complaint, McDougal was invited to meet with Radar and Sony to discuss a series last July, and Sony provided her and an assistant with first-class air travel and hotel accommodations. McDougal was allegedly told by email about the expiration of the deal with Universal, and the widow is said to have had direct discussions with Sony about taking an active role as a consultant in the production.
“Her willingness to travel cross-country and personally attend this meeting encouraged Plaintiff to continue its efforts to make a deal with Sony, a major competitor for Universal,” says the lawsuit. “She was also aware that Plaintiff had until February 11, 2015 to broadcast a television program in the United States to prevent a rights reversion to her and Defendant Bandersnatch.”
Manetheren takes issue with how McDougal “disparagingly referred to the Pilot in quotation marks and cast doubt upon Plaintiffs’ rights to produce the Pilot by unequivocally denying knowledge of those rights while asserting that Universal still possessed rights to produce the Program.” (Via THR)
Considering the pilot’s lackluster production value, maybe the Lifetime Original based on the impending trial will fare better with the ratings (and the time slot).
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)