Recently, I stumbled onto the website of William Richert, the writer ("The Happy Hooker"), actor ("My Own Private Idaho"), and director (the 1979 paranoid cult classic "Winter Kills"). Either he's crazy or desperate or just plain passionate, but the site offers a wild ride through one Hollywood creative's career, travails, and lawsuits.
He's posted the director's cut of his entire film "A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon," starring River Phoenix, online in small quicktime bites (doesn't this violate some copyright rules?); he details his legal battle with "the slick and thieving Aaron Sorkin" over a script that Richert wrote that was allegedly adopted into "The West Wing"; and then there's my favorite section, a long series of threatening letters under the heading "INFORMATION ABOUT CROOKED BEHAVIOR AMONG THE FOREIGN SALES AND DISTRIBUTION COMMUNITY A WARNING TO INDEPENDENTS AND INVESTORS" which recounts problems he had over his 1998 film "The Man in the Iron Mask" with Hannibal Pictures' Richard Rionda Del Castro.
"Currently, my investors and I are in a dire contest with the man and company who took the foreign rights to my films without honoring contracts and agreements, a fellow who says 'Sue Us' when asked to make things right," he writes (in a post that I surmise went up a few years ago). "For those of us who cannot afford thousands of dollars in litigation, or the time it takes to sue, it is a good thing the Internet exits (sic). It enables me to state my case universally, and warn others about what can happen [when] a hungry filmmaker meets an unscrupulous salesperson."
In September of last year, Richert was again in the news with another lawsuit, against the WGA: This New York Times story outlines the issue of so-called "foreign levies" collected from overseas by the union that were never paid out to writers. Go Richert! Go!