February 14, 2012 Law360
 

"Star Trek" Actor's Jilted Agency Sets Phasers To "Sue"

 

A Los Angles talent agency on Tuesday sued actor Chris Pine, best known for his role as Captain Kirk in the 2009 'Star Trek' reboot, saying the star fired the firm by email and then refused to pay millions in rightfully earned commissions.

In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, SDB Partners Inc. claims Pine abruptly terminated his involvement with the agency Nov. 11 without handing over commission payments the agency was owed for several recent films and announced sequels, in violation of talent agreements.

'Whether Pine is being misguided by his handlers or has simply been blinded by his success and fame, Pine apparently needs a refresher course on his obligation to compensate SDB for what SDB has done for him,' the complaint said.

The suit ó which reveals Pine's salaries on several of his recent hits ó comes on the same day as Pine's newest film, 'This Means War' was released in select theaters. Pine received $5 million for his role as a CIA agent in the film, which also stars Reese Witherspoon and is set for wide release Friday, according to the suit.

Bryan Freedman of Freedman & Taitelman LLP, attorney for SDB Partners, told Law360 on Tuesday that it was bad form for the actor to fire his talent agent of nine years by email.

'You owe your talent agents a little more than firing them by email and stiffing them on commission,' Freedman said.

Pine fired the agency on Nov. 11 in an e-mail crediting SDB with the rise in his popularity, but saying that his most recent meetings with the agency had been 'frustrating.'

'Pine did not even have the courtesy of picking up the telephone to tell SDB that he was ending their relationship of nine years,' the complaint said.

SDB took on Pine as a client in February 2003, when the actor was a relative unknown in the industry, and landed him in the male lead in 'Princess Diaries II,' which became his big break, according to the suit.

Under the terms of the talent agreement, SDB said it agreed to represent Pine in exchange for 10 percent of any projects SDB obtained for Pine or any endeavors Pine took on while under contract with SDB.

Throughout the relationship, SDB obtained several roles for Pine, including his role as James T. Kirk in Paramount Pictures Corp.'s new release of 'Star Trek' in 2009.

Under the 'Star Trek' agreement with Paramount, the studio was able to option Pine for up to two additional movies in the franchise. The agreement had the potential to earn Pine up to $5 million dollars in fixed compensation if Paramount made sequels.

In April, Paramount exercised its option to cast Pine as Kirk in a 'Star Trek' sequel and began production on the film, according to the complaint. And while Paramount paid Pine at least some portion of his fixed compensation, Pine has yet to forward any commission payments to SDB.

Pine was most recently cast by in 'This Means War,' in which Fox U.S. Productions agreed to pay Pine $5 million for his participation. While Fox has paid Pine the full $5 million fixed compensation, Pine only paid SDB a little less than $400,000.

SDB claims Pine still owes the talent agency over $100,000 in fixed compensation income, in addition to 10 percent of future compensation, contingent compensation and merchandising royalties Pine is expected to earn on the film.

Pine also owes SDB commission payments on his 2010 role in the yet-to-be-released 'Welcome To People' and any future commission ó which could add up to over $24 million ó from his role as Jack Ryan in Paramount's planned reboot of the Tom Clancy franchise.

After Pine's Nov. 11 dismissal email, SDB sent Pine a letter outlining the outstanding commission owed on "This Means War" and "Welcome To People." Pine failed to respond to the letter and remained silent on the issue of payment.

A representative for Pine did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

SDB is represented by Bryan Freedman and Jesse Kaplan of Freedman & Taitelman LLP.

Counsel information for Pine was not immediately available.

The case is SDB Partners Inc. v. Chris Pine et al., case number BC478818, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.