Mel Gibson has been slapped with a major fraud and breach of contract lawsuit, filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Benedict Fitzgerald, who wrote the screenplay for 1979’s “Wise Blood,” claims that he was hired to write a script for "The Passion of the Christ" for Gibson.
Fitzgerald claims that in spring 2001, he was contacted by Eveleen Bandy about “writing a dramatization of ‘The Passion of Our Lord’ (which became ‘The Passion’) for Gibson.”
He claims that in their original negotiations, Gibson said he was going to pay for the film himself, and "because he was so rich," he wouldn't take a cut of any profits, but that they would be divided among the other people who worked on the movie, “excluding Gibson.”
Fitzgerald also claims Gibson "considered [the movie] a personal gift to his faith."
Fitzgerald claims he wrote the script for the film, devoting several years of his life and doing several re-writes. Because of the amount of work he put in, “he experienced substantial cash flow problems,” the lawsuit claims as his “dedication trumped fiscal self-interest.”
The screenwriter claims he struggled to receive a production bonus of $75,000 which had been promised to him. He goes on to claim he eventually only received the money “because he permitted writing credit to be shared with Gibson.”
But it doesn't end there. Fitzgerald, after lengthily describing his own Catholicism and fervent belief in the project (which he claims is how he got hired in the first place), says Gibson "preyed monetarily" on him, "taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of [Fitzgerald’s] fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs. In making a mockery of his own purported belief system, Gibson callously and greedily exploited [Fitzgerald],” the suit read.
“He shamelessly minted and cobbled gobbles of money from ‘The Pasion.’ And just as Gibson extracted shared screenplay credit from [Fitzgerald], he also extracted sums of money due [Fitzgerald],” the suit continued.
Fitzgerald is suing for fraud breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith, unfair business practices and unjust enrichment. He is asking for at least $5,000,000.
George R. Hedges, an attorney for Gibson's production company, Icon, told People, the lawsuit "is utterly baseless and the charges are utterly baseless."
He said the screenwriter "was handsomely compensated — a very significant amount of money for any writer on any project."