Former James Franco Student Sues Over Disaster Artist Script

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As writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber prepare for the Academy Awards this weekend, where they’ll be vying for Best Adapted Screenplay for their work on The Disaster Artist, a former student of James Franco is claiming he wrote the script first. Ryan Moody, a former student of James Franco’s at UCLA, is suing the actor’s production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, along with Seth Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures, claiming he was never given the writer’s credit or the associate producer’s credit on the film that he was promised. The lawsuit accuses the companies of misrepresentation and breach of contract, although no damages were specified in the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Ryan Moody was a student of James Franco’s at UCLA starting in the fall of 2012, where Moody directed Franco in two short films, with Franco telling the student that he was impressed with his work, which lead to Franco asking Moody to serve as his teacher’s assistant for an English class Franco was teaching the following semester. In October 2013, Franco asked Moody if he would adapt The Disaster Artist, based on the making of The Room, into a screenplay, giving him until the end of November to do so.

The lawsuit also reveals that Moody travelled to the set of The Interview in Vancouver to pitch The Disaster Artist to Point Grey principals Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver, where they expressed interest in the project. After a number of different meetings with Franco and Point Grey, and delivering five drafts of the screenplay, Franco told Moody that Point Grey wanted to replace him with more established writers. In exchange, they promised to give him associate producer credit on The Disaster Artist, while Franco promised that Rabbit Bandini would produce a project of Moody’s called On the Bus, which he would write and direct, but in May 2014, Rabbit Bandini presented Moody with a purchase agreement for his script for The Disaster Artist, which paid him just $5,000, and gave him no writing credit but did promise him an associate producer’s credit, which he never received. In response to the lawsuit, Point Grey, Rabbit Bandini and Good Universe issued the following statement, denying the “specious allegations.”

“To be perfectly clear, all screenplay material created by Scott and Michael in connection with The Disaster Artist was adapted directly from the book written by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero. Their incredible work, which has been repeatedly recognized by countless organizations, should not be denigrated or defamed in any manner by these specious accusations.”

Moody claims in the lawsuit that there are elements of the finished film that were in his screenplay but were not part of the original book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell that the movie is based on. One such scene is towards the end, where Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) flees the first screening of The Room after the audience’s unexpected response, only to return and “own” the film that he made. You can read a copy of the full lawsuit over at Deadline, which includes emails exchanged by James Franco, Ryan Moody and producers from Rabbit Bandini and Point Grey. You can also take a look at a tweet from writer Scott Neustadter, who revealed that he was never aware anyone else adapted The Disaster Artist before he and his partner Michael H. Weber did.

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