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Early this year, Midnight Rider seemed like a promising drama based on the life of celebrated American singer-songwriter Gregg Allman. But since then, the production has experienced great tragedy and loss. And now its inspiration wants it shut down completely.
THR reports Gregg Allman has filed a lawsuit in Savannah, Georgia to completely halt production on Midnight Rider. The suit claims the production company Unclaimed Freight Productions lost their rights to tell his story because they failed two points of the signed contract. First off, Allman claims Unclaimed Freight Productions still owes him $9,000 from the agreed upon payment for the screen rights to his memoir My Cross to Bear. But the second point is one that should raise eyebrows.
A frequent condition of screen rights is that they revert back to the seller if a film is not produced from them within an agreed upon window. For this particular contract, Unclaimed Freight Productions had committed to begin shooting principal photography of Midnight Rider by February 28, 2014, or else they'd forfeit their rights to Allman's story. Allman is claiming they failed to begin production in time, but most of the world knows Midnight Rider was shooting on February 20th, as that was the night a horrendous accident took the life of one the movie's crew. Allman's suit insists these scenes were part of pre-production, not principal photography. So it does not count toward the clause.
The lost crew member's name was Sarah Jones. She was a 27-year-old camera assistant who died when a freight train came barreling through a location shoot, which may not have been properly licensed and/or secured. It was a shocking event that created outcry and the demand for safer working conditions on location shoots. Jones's death and the cause that rallied from it won spotlight at the Oscars, with supporters wearing black ribbons in honor of the fallen crewmember.
Since her death, investigations on the state and federal level have begun to uncover what happened that night, and why the crew was put at risk. Unclaimed Freight Productions could face serious charges depending on what is discovered. It's also expected that Jones's family will file a wrongful death suit against Unclaimed Freight.
Production on Midnight Rider was suspended after Jones's death, but husband and wife team Randall Miller and Jody Savin, co-writers of Midnight Rider and co-owners of Unclaimed Freight, are looking to resume production in Los Angeles next month. By then, they'd have to recast a bit, since Academy Award-winner William Hurt dropped the project as the delays stretched on. Miller and Savin may face further troubles though, as a groundswell movement is urging below-the-line crewmembers to boycott this production entirely. But if Allman's suit succeeds, he'll be able to shut down this troubled production himself.
While many lawsuits are about money, this one seems to be more about what Allman's sees as right and wrong. He had previously sent Randall Miller, who is also directing Midnight Rider, a personal letter asking him to stop the movie after Jones's death. He wrote:
"While there may have been a possibility that the production might have resumed shortly after that, the reality of Sarah Jones’ tragic death, the loss suffered by the Jones family and injuries to the others involved has led me to realize that for you to continue production would be wrong."
When that failed, Allman brought in lawyers. A hearing will be held on May 12th over this matter. We'll give you more on this story as it develops.