A producer on Eva Green’s failed film “A Patriot” has accused the project’s director Dan Pringle of being “inexperienced” and “starstruck.”
Jake Seal, who was brought in by financiers Sherborne Media Finance in an apparent bid to salvage the project after funding collapsed, was on the witness stand in London’s High Court on Tuesday to give evidence in the trial.
It was Seal, a producer and the owner of Hampshire-based production facility Black Hanger Studios, that Green called a “moron,” “pure vomit” and “the Devil” in private texts and emails that emerged during the pre-action discovery process. She also referred to his Black Hanger crew as “shitty peasants” and said Seal “needs to get fired.”
During cross-examination by Green’s lawyer, Edmund Cullen KC, on Tuesday afternoon, Seal told the court of the project: “This is effectively a first-time director, very inexperienced, who has never worked with a studio before.” Seal added that Pringle had only previously made one feature, which was filmed on location rather than on a sound stage and had never previously overseen the building of a set or worked with a water tank, all of which “A Patriot” was going to require. According to IMDb, Pringle has directed one previous feature titled “K-Shop,” about a kebab shop owner’s son who seeks to avenge his father’s death.
Seal also said “people” – understood to mean Pringle and his producing partner Adam Merrifield – were “starstruck” by Green, the suggestion being that this made them reluctant to reign her in. In his written evidence, which was put before the court, Seal claimed that Sherborne owner Alastair Burlingham was “disappointed” in Merrified’s “work as a producer” because “he felt he was not suitably managing Ms Green[.]” He said that Green had ultimately walked away from the project, forfeiting her fee.
But Green’s lawyer countered that the film had collapsed because Seal had failed to make any preparations, such as building sets or hiring castmembers, even as the film’s start date was rapidly approaching. A debate ensued between Cullen and Seal over whether Bill Nighy, who was in the running to replace Charles Dance in the project, had ever been sent a concrete offer. Cullen cited a text exchange between Merrifield and the casting director in which the casting director said he was “feeling very worried” given that the film was set to shoot in 20 days’ time. “We didn’t know if Bill Nighy was realistic,” Seal replied and said in any case Dance had never “absolutely dropped out, it was back and forth.”
Green is suing White Lantern (Britannica) Ltd – the production company set up by Merrifield and Pringle to make “A Patriot” – over her $1 million fee. Merrifield and Pringle resigned as directors of the company shortly before the project collapsed in late 2019. Green claims that under the terms of her “pay or play” contract she is still owed her fee, which is currently being held in escrow by her agent.
White Lantern and their parent company Sherborne are counter-suing for “conspiracy, deceit and unlawful interference.” They claim Green is not owed the money because she walked away from the project and – together with Merrifield and Pringle – tried to buy back the script from White Lantern to make the movie herself. Last week Green told the court that she “fell in love” with the script for “A Patriot,” which was written by Pringle. “It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read,” she said.
In his written evidence, Seal, who was appearing as a witness for White Lantern and Sherborne, said he had “limited contact” with Green during the project, only ever meeting her in person on one occasion and exchanging some emails regarding casting and production staff. But he called her “unpredictable” and suggested she had made “demands” about the crew she wanted to work with and what they should be paid.
White Lantern, in its original incarnation under Pringle and Merrifield, had originally approached Sherborne to provide a bridge loan as they sought production finance to fund “A Patriot” to completion. But after a number of mishaps – including the production moving from Ireland to Hampshire, which had a knock-on impact on tax credits, a Chinese distributor effectively reneging on the deal and financiers Piccadilly Pictures pulling out – Sherborne found themselves on the hook for the entire budget while they tried to extricate themselves from the project without too much damage to their wallets.
In a bid to rescue the movie and save some money, Sherborne parachuted Seal into White Lantern as a lead producer and asked him to make Black Hanger available for the shoot at no upfront cost.
Green’s case is that by that time the film was already in its death throes and Sherborne had no intention of funding principal photography but didn’t want to pull the plug because it would mean the actor was entitled to her full fee. “[It was a] charade,” her lawyer told the court. “Because parties were at a stand off because nobody wanted to be accused of breach… you were all playing filmmaking.”
The case is set to conclude on Friday. A judgment will be handed down at a later date.