‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Screenwriter Settles Profits Lawsuit Over Alleged Bait-and-Switch

Bohemian Rhapsody screenwriter Anthony McCarten has settled a lawsuit alleging he hasn’t seen his share of profits from the hit Freddie Mercury biopic despite it earning more than $900 million at the box office.

McCarten on Oct. 31 moved to dismiss the lawsuit against producer GK Films. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

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The two-time Academy Award nominee (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything) received the sole “screenplay by” credit on the movie. Under his deal with GK Films, he’s entitled to “[a]n amount equal to 5% of 100%” of net proceeds, which was defined as the company’s standard definition, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2021.

But McCarten alleged he hasn’t gotten any profits, with accounting statements issued by Fox’s 20th Century Studios showing a $51 million deficit for the movie. He took issue with the computation of net proceeds under Fox’s standard definition rather than GK Films’. As a result, distribution fees, which are typically deducted, ate away at his share.

McCarten, who was frustrated over low fixed fees in his deal, was allegedly told by then-GK Films executive Denis O’Sullivan that the company “will take care of you in success.” He said he understood that to mean that he would be paid 5 percent of what GK Films made on the movie, with the difference between the company’s actual and net proceeds being the home video royalty and his unrecouped development expenses. “And there was no question GK Films’ ‘net proceeds’ definition would be more favorable to him than whatever a major studio called its net profit definition,” stated the complaint, which noted that McCarten’s lawyers negotiated directly with GK Films and not Fox.

The lawsuit accused Graham King’s GK Films of breaching its obligation to negotiate in good faith, alleging it “never even provided any definition (its own or Fox’s)” of net proceeds. “Even worse, it is not even clear that GK Films has ever had a standard definition on any film,” wrote Dale Kinsella, a lawyer for McCarten, in the complaint. “Nor did it have any intention of developing such a definition.”

Bohemian Rhapsody was a box office unicorn, earning more than $900 million worldwide against a midsize budget of roughly $55 million. It sat in “development hell” for years, the lawsuit alleged, before King hired McCarten to rewrite the script. In 2016, the movie was fast-tracked at Fox.

Most studios have turned to rebranding net profits as net proceeds. This way, the lawsuit alleged, studios don’t have to “reconcile their outsized profits” with accounting statements showing deficits in the tens of millions of dollars.

“The parties have resolved the matter,” said Nicholas Soltman, a lawyer for McCarten, in a statement.

GK Films didn’t respond to requests for comment. Fox wasn’t named in the complaint.

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