Robin Williams

Robin Williams unamused by pay dispute

The actor and comedian is the latest star to sue producers apparently reluctant to honour a 'pay or play' deal

In Hollywood, it seems, there is a rule: do not call Robin Williams a Dick and then walk away. You’re likely to wind up in court.

The Oscar-winning actor is suing the makers of a shelved film, A Couple of Dicks, in which he was supposed to star as a private detective. In a suit filed at Los Angeles’ superior court on Friday he has asked for $6m allegedly promised to him in the event of the movie not making it into cinemas.

Williams was told in March that the comedy, which he was due to appear in alongside James Gandolfini, had been shelved by production companies Frank and Beans Productions and Gold Circle Films. He maintains that the two firms are still obliged to pay him under the terms of what is known in the industry as a “pay or play deal”.

Williams says that under his specific agreement the cut-off point for the film to start shooting was April 15. Gold Circle has reportedly put the project into “turnaround” with studio Warner Bros, meaning it may yet emerge at some point in the future. But the actor is insisting that he be paid regardless.

The case highlights the inherent flaws of the “pay or play” deal, often used in Hollywood to persuade a big name actor to sign on for a film. Often there is no written agreement, although in Williams’ case it appears that there was. Even so, it is customary for the contract to remain unsigned, as it seems to have been in this instance. John Cusack and Diane Lane are among other actors who have filed suits demanding they be paid under the terms of similar deals in recent years.

In these times of financial difficulty, studios seem to be taking great care to avoid paying top dollar for talent. Only last week Terrence Howard was dumped as Colonel James Rhodes in Iron Man 2, a role he thought he had secured, in favour of Don Cheadle, reportedly over financial issues. Howard did not have a “pay or play” deal, according to trade bible Variety, but is probably wishing right now that he did.

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