Benedict Cumberbatch may play a sorcerer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this is one problem that he can’t erase with one of Doctor Strange’s spells. The English actor has a full docket of projects coming up, but his production company is currently under fire for an alleged breach of contract - and it’s all over the film rights to a novel by Roald Dahl.
Variety has reported that SunnyMarch, the production company directed by Benedict Cumberbatch, is now facing a lawsuit over a script based on a novel by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl. Apparently SunnyMarch had signed a co-production contract with Portobello Productions back in 2019 to bring Roald Dahl’s novel Danny the Champion of the World to the big screen.
Benedict Cumberbatch was also on tap to star in the film, as long as his schedule allowed for it. With the agreement settled, Portobello Productions enlisted David Nicholls (who also penned the script for the Benedict Cumberbatch mini series Patrick Melrose) to create a rough draft. According to Portobello, SunnyMarch agreed to hire a director and revise the script upon its completion. However, Benedict Cumberbatch and his production partner Adam Ackland allegedly did not make any attempt to move forward with the script-- even though the former had continued to participate in other projects like Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The agreement also allegedly stated that Portobello was allowed to rescind the rights to the Danny the Champion of the World film if SunnyMarch did not okay the script within a year. After 12 months passed, Portobello announced that it would be taking back the film rights due to inactivity. In the latest lawsuit filed by the production company, Portobello is asking the court to approve their motion to remove SunnyMarch from the equation.
To complicate matters, Portobello was also within their rights to end the agreement if Benedict Cumberbatch “ceased to have control” of SunnyMarch. Benedict Cumberbatch and Adam Ackland had actually sold a share of their company to the financing conglomerate Anton, meaning that they no longer had 100% of the say in SunnyMarch’s operating decisions. Portobello is using this as ammo in their prosecution.
Benedict Cumberbatch and SunnyMarch have not yet responded to the Portobello Production lawsuit. The Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the author’s estate, does not seem to be involved, as Netflix purchased the organization late last year after expressing a desire to create an animated series. It is uncertain whether or not the lawsuit will affect Benedict Cumberbatch’s involvement in another upcoming Dahl adaptation, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Wes Anderson is attached to direct.
Danny the Champion of the World may not be hitting theaters anytime soon, but Roald Dahl’s most famous work will be brought to life (again) in the upcoming film Wonka with Timothée Chalamet in the title role. You can also check out the premiere date for Wonka and other major movie release dates set to break the box office in the coming months.
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