"Wheel of Time" Pilot Leads to Defamation Lawsuit
When news broke about the late night airing of a low budget Wheel of Time pilot this week I knew that it would likely lead to an entertaining legal battle, and my prediction has already come true.
The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop on a lawsuit filed by Red Eagle Entertainment against the estate the late Robert Jordan, the author of the Wheel of Time series. Red Eagle is suing the estate, the author’s widow, and John Does 1 through 20 for:
- breach of contract,
- intentional interference with contractual relations, and
- intentional interference with prospective economic relations.
Red Eagle Entertainment is the production company behind the execrable half hour Wheel of Time pilot which was shown on the FXX cable channel early Monday morning earlier this week.
The pilot was loosely based on Robert Jordan’s 14 volume fantasy series, Wheel of Time, and it was created less to test the waters and judge fan interest than to exercise Red Eagle’s options on the TV rights so that the rights would not revert to the estate. (Red Eagle CEO Rick Selvedge said as much to io9 earlier this week.)
With the success of Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and other TV series based on books, and the fact that Jordan’s Hugo Award-nominated series has topped the New York Times best-seller list, it’s hardly a surprise that rights have suddenly become quite hot, leading Red Eagle to take steps to secure its options.
The pilot was cheaply produced and Red Eagle only finished shooting the scenes the week before it was aired. And yes, it is as bad as that sounds.
The pilot sparked condemnation from fans and was denounced by the author’s widow, Harriet McDougal, who as CEO of Bandersnatch Group is also the executor for the estate. She released a statement which denied that Red Eagle had the TV rights, and said that the pilot was "made without my knowledge or cooperation". McDougal also said that Universal had the rights, which were set to expire on Wednesday of this week.
In response, Red Eagle has sued Bandersnatch Group, McDougal, and 20 unnamed defendants.
According to the filing (below), Red Eagle is saying that it had acquired the TV rights from the author in 2004, and had paid over $600,000 over the past 10 years to keep the options. This included a reported $465,000 paid to Bandersnatch Group in 2008.
The filing details the deals Red Eagle made with a number of parties, including Universal, to produce games, a movie, and TV series based on Wheel of Time. (No works were produced, in case you were wondering.) The Universal deal is described as having ended in 2014, while Red Eagle held the rights until 11 February 2015.
It goes on to contradict McDougal’s statement of non-involvement, saying that she had been informed that the Universal deal had expired, and that she had been flown to Los Angeles in 2014 (at Sony’s expense) to discuss a potential deal with Sony.
Red Eagle further describes MacDougal’s statement earlier this week as a disparaging remark which violated one of the contracts it had signed with Bandersnatch.
All in all, this lawsuit has the ripe stink of manure. One does not sue the widow of a well-loved author, not unless one wants the fans to guarantee that any resulting project will fail. And one does not sue 20 unnamed individuals for the widow’s statement, not when she is also the executor of the estate. That is a veiled threat against anyone else speaking out.
I am looking forward to watching these nitwits have their heads handed to them in court.
images by LeanderArkenau