Eva Green painted as a 'diva' in legal battle over failed movie

Eva Green - Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images/Bvlgari
Eva Green - Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images/Bvlgari

WhatsApp messages sent by actress Eva Green calling a producer a “devious sociopath” are being used to paint her as a diva, the High Court has heard.

The Casino Royale star, 42, was due to appear in a £4 million sci-fi film called A Patriot before production was shut down in 2019.

She is suing the production company White Lantern Films, claiming she is entitled to her million-dollar (approximately £810,000) fee for the movie, despite its cancellation. The company has brought a counterclaim that she had "excessive creative and financial demands" and had expectations that were "incompatible" with the film’s budget.

Ms Green, who was an actress and executive producer on the project, claims she is entitled to be paid her fee if the production was cancelled under a so-called "pay or play" provision.

At the start of the eight-day trial on Thursday, barrister Edmund Cullen KC told the court: "This case is designed to paint my client as a diva to win headlines and damage her reputation."

He added: "This was, for her, a passion project. The theme of the film concerns an issue of great concern to her, namely the climate catastrophe.

"She loved the script and wanted the film to be made, she bent over backwards to get this done."

Defence 'designed to blacken Ms Green's name'

He added it was "extraordinary" that Ms Green was accused of “somehow trying to undermine the project all along by making unreasonable demands".

Mr Cullen said White Lantern's defence to the case was "an artificial construct which bears no reality to the factual and legal position as it existed at the time".

"It seems to be designed to blacken the name of an actor who has not breached a contract or missed a day's shooting in a career spanning 20 years," he added.

Lawyers for White Lantern Films said Ms Green expressed "a lack of confidence and dissatisfaction" with some of the production crew.

Max Mallin KC, for White Lantern, claimed she was "increasingly reluctant to be involved in the production", which would be a breach of contract.

He read the court exchanges between Ms Green and her driver, in which she told him, “I’m playing a game with this evil producer”, and that “we had to get out”.

Mr Mallin said this was a clear sign that she was renouncing her part in the film, but Ms Green’s lawyers say she never formally renounced her role and that she wanted to give up her fee for the part in escrow in exchange for rights over the script.

Ms Green later allegedly instructed her driver not to tell one of the film’s executive producers, Jake Seal, and the production manager, Terry Bird, any details of her plans to withdraw from the film but to “play dumb”.

Mr Mallin KC said: “She’s become conscious that what she’s done is not the right thing, and not that she’s going to reverse out of it, but she wants it concealed.”

And in an exchange with Jeanette McGrath, a script supervisor who she wanted to work on the film, Ms Green is said to have told her on September 23 2019, “we had to get out as the main investor was a f****** moron”.

In other text messages used in White Lantern's claim, Ms Green is said to refer to Mr Seal, as "evil" a "devious sociopath" and "a liar and a mad man".

"I cannot believe that Moron Jake... pure vomit," read another message said to be from Ms Green sent in August 2019.

She is also said to have described Mr Seal and Mr Bird as "total arseholes".

'Venting of a stream of consciousness'

Defending, Mr Cullen said that the text messages "must be seen in context" of negotiations over buying out a lender to White Lantern in return for rights to the script.

He added: "They are in essence an informal venting of a stream of consciousness as events unfolded. The language is unguarded and at times strongly, and perhaps carelessly, expressed.

"They are contradictory and volatile, reflecting the personalities of those involved and the extreme tension surrounding the film's production."

The barrister said White Lantern has "sought to lay every failure of the production at Ms Green's door".

He later told the court that the production was in a "state of complete dysfunction" and that the "reality" was "this was a production which could never have actually been made and the defendant knew it".

Lawyers for White Lantern and its lender, SMC Specialty Finance, claim that she showed a level of “extreme animosity” towards Mr Seal and towards the production.

Film 'viewed as a charade'

She is alleged to have called members of the crew “sh**** peasants from Hampshire” in text messages heard by the court and had accused Mr Seal of planning to make a “cheap B movie”.

Mr Mallin also alleged that she had worked “hand in glove” with the film’s former directors in order to wrest control of the film away from Mr Seal and the lending company and that from early August, “she, in conjunction with the former directors, are focusing on ways to get back control of the movie she wanted to make”.

“Much has been made of the claimant’s commitment to making the film… she had commitment to making a film, a film she wanted to make… a passion project”, he said, adding that she showed a “visceral aversion” to making the film Mr Seal and SMC envisaged with the budget they had.

Ms Green’s lawyers described the claim that she renounced her role as “palpable nonsense” and that the defendant’s entire case was a “busted flush”. He said that the film’s production company viewed the film as a “charade” and that it was widely understood that the film would never be made, with everyone “in some sense pretending” to complete the project because its finances were “in freefall”.

Mr Justice Michael Green is expected to give his decision at a later date.