Harvey Weinstein, the master of publicizing controversies, is currently quarreling with Warner Bros. over the title of the upcoming Lee Daniels‘ movie The Butler.
The MPAA agrees with WB who claims they have the right to the title The Butler (based on a 1916 silent short movie of the same name) and ruled TWC couldn’t use the word ‘butler’, and they are being fined $25,000 a day in penalties over the matter.
Meanwhile, Weinstein — who owns a 2.5% stake in The Hobbit films — said about the backdoor dealings regarding the studio’s claim to the title The Butler and his rights to The Hobbit:
I was asked by two execs at Warner Brothers, which I’m happy to testify, that if I gave them back the rights to The Hobbit they would drop the claim. For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic. This was the big guy trying to hit the small guy.
He added that title replication is nothing new in Hollywood:
And 122 times in the history of movies, titles have been used and repeated. And our understanding with them was that this was just going to be the simple process that it always is. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have a movie out called Heat. Jason Statham is shooting a movie called Heat Bob DeNiro and Al Pacino made a movie called Heat and ten years before that Burt Reynolds made a movie called Heat. And Unstoppable has been done 5 times. 122 instances. These guys told us they were going to do the normal thing, the normal business they practice and I think there’s an ulterior motive.
Warner Bros. responded in the following statement:
The Weinstein Company, as the New York Times has noted, is following an oft-trodden path of creating “well-publicized controversies” in order to promote their films by disseminating deliberate misinformation about the true nature of this dispute. The Weinsteins are sophisticated experts in this arena and three neutral arbitrators have penalized them for blatantly disregarding MPAA rules. It goes without saying that Warner Bros. has no issue with Lee Daniels’ film (never has) and fully supports the artistic goals of the filmmakers. The Weinsteins’ suggestions to the contrary are deeply offensive and untrue.
One way or another, Daniels‘ follow-up to The Paperboy (whatever it will be called) will hit screens on August 16th, 2013.
Check out the first clip from the film below.