Actress Eva Green said “justice prevailed” after winning her High Court battle with a production company over the collapse of an abandoned sci-fi film.
The 42-year-old sued White Lantern Film after production on A Patriot was shuttered in October 2019, claiming she was entitled to her million-dollar (£810,000) fee for the film, despite its cancellation, under the terms of their agreement.
White Lantern Film and lender SMC Speciality Finance (SMC) brought a counter-claim against Ms Green, alleging she undermined the independent film’s production and renounced the contract.
In a judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Michael Green found in Ms Green’s favour, ruling she was entitled to the fee and dismissing the counter-claim.
In a statement after the ruling, the actress said: “I fought tooth and nail to defend the beautiful film that I loved and had signed on for.
“A film that spoke of a cause I hold dear – climate change and warned of the resource wars and mass migration that would occur if we don’t address the problem. I stood my ground, and this time, justice prevailed.”
During the trial in London earlier this year, Max Mallin KC, for White Lantern and SMC, said Ms Green showed a “categorical and unequivocal refusal to perform”.
But Mr Justice Michael Green said the allegation Ms Green “renounced” her obligations under the agreement “has the feel of being constructed after the event in order to be able to mount some sort of defence to the claim brought by Ms Green”, adding it was “based on false evidence” from witnesses.
He added: “There is no doubt that Ms Green did not make any conclusive decision or statement that she would not comply with her obligations under the artist agreement.
“Nor could anyone have reasonably understood her to have made such a decision.”
The court heard from one of the assistant directors on the project who said the proposed studios in Hampshire were “like a morgue” and were “an aircraft hangar with leaks and no soundproofing”.
However, Ms Green said: “If I had been called to set, I would have done this film even though it would have been a disaster.”
Referencing messages sent by Ms Green to her associates, Mr Justice Michael Green said: “When she says ‘we have to pull out’ or ‘we are pulling out’ or ‘we had to get out’, these have to be understood in the context of a heightened emotional state where Ms Green is venting her fury at (executive producer Jake Seal) and the state of the production of the film she is desperate to make.
“She is being open with the people she trusts.”
The judge continued: “She recognised that she could still be forced to make the film in those circumstances, which itself assumes that she had not withdrawn her services under the artist agreement.”
During the 11-day trial, the court was told Ms Green described potential crew members as “shitty peasants”, the production as a “B-shitty-movie” and Mr Seal as “pure vomit” in other private messages.
However, Mr Justice Michael Green found: “She may have said some extremely unpleasant things about Mr Seal and his crew at Black Hangar, but this was borne from a genuine feeling of concern that any film made under Mr Seal’s control would be of very low quality and would not do justice to a script that she and the former directors were passionate about.”
Discussing Mr Seal’s time in the witness box, the judge added: “I have to say that, having heard him give evidence, I can see how it might be possible to take an instant dislike to him. In giving evidence he was at times patronising, sarcastic and denigrating.”
“I found him to have an innate aggression and can understand why Ms Green and others might have been displeased to be told that they had to make the film under his full control,” he continued.
Mr Justice Michael Green also said the actress, who gave oral evidence at the High Court in London over two days in January, “was in some senses a frustrating and unsatisfactory witness”, adding she was “surprisingly under-prepared”.
During her evidence, Ms Green blamed her “Frenchness” for a message describing a producer and writer on the film as “weak and stupid”.
But the judge said: “I understand the torment it must have been for her to have all her private texts and WhatsApp messages revealed in open court and scrutinised for what they disclosed about her true state of mind and intentions in relation to the film.
“However I do think allowances need to be made for the heightened emotions that were clearly present when some of the messages were written and for the fact that these were assumed to be personal correspondence between friends that would never have been imagined to be seen by anyone else and certainly not analysed to the extent they were.”
In her statement after the ruling, Ms Green said she “was forced to stand up to a small group of men, funded by deep financial resources, who tried to use me as a scapegoat to cover up their own mistakes”.
White Lantern and SMC said the actress had made a “completely unwarranted” suggestion that their legal action was motivated by gender-based bullying.
Their statement said: “The evidence presented at court and about which Ms Green now complains were things that she herself wrote and said.
“SMC has a long and proud record of financing and championing producers, directors, writers and acting talent of all genders, from Oscar winners to first-time female directors.
“It is preposterous to suggest that Ms Green’s gender played any role in our decision to defend ourselves against this legal claim.”
White Lantern and SMC are considering their potential next steps, including an appeal.