Benedict Cumberbatch’s production company SunnyMarch is being sued for the rights to a screenplay by Roald Dahl, Variety can reveal.
SunnyMarch, whose directors are Cumberbatch and his producing partner Adam Ackland, entered into a co-production deal with Portobello Productions (“Moffie”, “Ida”) in November 2019 to make a film adaptation of Dahl’s novel “Danny the Champion of the world”. .”
Cumberbatch was also set to star in the film as Danny’s father, William, subject to his availability and script approval.
After commissioning and paying ‘One Day’ writer David Nicholls to write a first draft, however, Portobello alleges they heard no more of Cumberbatch or Ackland, although the two men undertook numerous other projects, which are listed in court documents, including “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “The Power of the Dog,” for which Cumberbatch could possibly win an Oscar next month.
Under the deal, the two companies planned to hire a director to work with Nicholls to revise the script, and once approved, it would be sent to film financiers and talent.
However, the lawsuit alleges, “Since the date of the agreement, no material progress has been made in the development of the film. The parties did not hire a director, and no revised first draft of the screenplay was produced.
According to the co-production agreement, if SunnyMarch or Cumberbatch had not personally approved the revised script within 12 months of delivery or if the parties could not finance it within three years, Portobello had the right to terminate the contract and to take over the rights from Nicholls. ‘ scenario.
The agreement could also be terminated if Cumberbatch and Ackland “cease to have control” of SunnyMarch Limited or its holding company, SunnyMarch Holdings Limited, or “if any of their services are no longer exclusively available to the either of these companies. In September 2021, Cumberbatch and Ackland announced that they had sold a minority stake in SunnyMarch to production and finance house Anton, founded by Sébastien Raybaud.
Portobello sent SunnyMarch a notice in December 2021 stating that it was terminating the agreement and regaining ownership of the Roald Dahl script; however, last month SunnyMarch’s attorneys responded by denying that Portobello had any right to terminate the agreement.
Portobello is now asking for a court statement that the deal has been terminated and that SunnyMarch “has no continuing rights to the film.”
SunnyMarch has not yet filed a defence.
It is unclear whether The Roald Dahl Story Company (TRDSC), which manages Dahl’s literary works, was involved in the production, although they are not named in the lawsuit. TRDSC was acquired by Netflix in September 2021 in what was thought to be a deal worth $700 million.
Last month, it was announced that Cumberbatch is set to star in another Dahl adaptation, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” directed by Wes Anderson. The film is a Netflix production and also stars Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel and Ben Kingsley.
Netflix is also working with David Nicholls on a new adaptation of “One Day”.
Variety contacted representatives for Portobello, SunnyMarch and Netflix.