Is Michael Moore trying to send a message to Academy voters?
Just in time for the Oscar's fierce campaign season and perhaps hoping to put a dent in their chances of taking home Best Picture, the firebrand filmmaker has filed suit against Harvey and Bob Weinstein, accusing the King's Speech producers of screwing him out of more than $2.7 million in profits from his 2004 documentary megahit, Fahrenheit 9/11.
So will the legal dustup stop the critiically acclaimed movie in its tracks?
"It's terrible timing for Harvey now that he's back in a big way," famed Oscar prognosticator Tom O'Neil, editor of GoldDerby.com, tells E! News. "This is the Oscar warrior who fought his way back after his split with Disney, and now he's back and probably going to win his first Oscar for Best Picture since he's been out on his own."
Per the breach-of-contract complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday ( read the court docs here ), Moore alleged the brothers and an affiliate called the Fellowship Adventure Group perpetrated "financial deception" by using tricky accounting to divert earnings to its own coffers that should've been paid to the director for his expos on the Bush administration, which grossed $222 million worldwide.
Among Moore's allegations: the Weinsteins failed to abide by an agreement to divide all revenue from worldwide sales by 50 percent; employed irregular accounting practices to secretly deduct $2.5 million in income to by out interest owned by Icon Entertainment International; and charged a 7.5 percent "override fee" for advertising costs which they prohibited from doing.
The helmer also took issue with a "grossly excessive and unreasonable" charge that saw the production pay for a private jet to fly one of the Weinsteins to Europe.
O'Neil tells E! that while the legal salvo couldn't come at a worse time, it's unlikely to derail The King's Speech from its expected coronation come Hollywood's Biggest Night.
"Even if Harvey was having a smackdown over profits of his current Oscar contender, The King's Speech, that might not matter," the expert added. "When Crash was up for Best Picture, its producers were suing and slandering each other over money and it still won even though Brokeback Mountain was heavily favored."
The Weinsteins' high-powered attorney, Bert Fields, thinks Moore's decision to file the suit now was squarely aimed at hurting his clients to the max.
"That's absolutely my suspicion, and I wonder who put him up to it," the legal eagle told E! "The allegations are absolutely rubbish. "[Moore] has been paid something like 16 million from the film. It's every dime he's been entitled to."
As for that questionable plane flight, Fields noted that it "was totally for this picture, for the distribution of the picture and absolutely a legitimate charge."
"Mr. Moore should be ashamed of himself...and I'm confident that the judge is gonna rule that he was paid [his due]," the lawyer said.
Moore's attorney, Larry Stein, could not be reached for comment.