‘La La Land’ Composer Sues WME, Says Agency Cheated Him Out of Concert Profits
Justin Hurwitz says his former agency "abused its position" and had a "blatant conflict of interest" by producing performances of "La La Land In Concert."
The Oscar-winning composer behind the music to La La Land is suing his former talent agency, William Morris Endeavor, for “cynically and systemically” defrauding him out of profits for live concerts of the movie’s score.
In a blistering complaint filed Monday (Jan. 10) in Los Angeles court, attorneys for Justin Hurwitz accused his former agency of “deceiving” the composer with secret agreements and other “shocking conduct” in order to unfairly pocket the money from a series of so-called live-to-film performances.
“Given WME’s underhanded actions and its unrepentant behavior subsequently, Hurwitz has no choice but to bring this lawsuit so that he can expose WME’s blatant conflict of interests,” wrote Hurtwitz’s attorneys, Bryan Freedman and Tamar Yeghiayan of the law firm Freedman + Taitelman LLP.
Hurwitz won two Academy Awards for La La Land — best original score and best original song for “City of Stars.”
In his lawsuit, Hurwitz claims that WME breached its ethical and fiduciary duty by duping him into allowing the agency itself to be credited as the producer for performances of La La Land In Concert. The agency then convinced him to “accept a minimal piece of the pie” of revenue, he said, and refused to hire him to conduct the concerts.
“Hurwitz found himself in the absurd position of being denied the opportunity to work by his own talent agent on a project in which his talent agent was supposedly representing him,” his attorneys wrote. “As a result, the talent-talent agency relationship had been turned upside down.”
In a statement Monday, WME said Hurwitz’s claims “are without merit and WME intends to vigorously defend itself.”
The allegations in Hurwitz’s lawsuit mirror those that surfaced in a recent legal battle waged by the Writers Guild of America against WME and other agencies. In that case, the union claimed that the agencies had created a conflict of interest by both representing talent and producing content themselves. That dispute ended last year with a settlement in which the agencies agreed to sharply limit their ownership stakes in production companies.
In Monday’s complaint, Hurwitz said his experience with WME was a prime example of the worst kind of abuse brought to light by the WGA’s broader lawsuit.
“WME sold its own client a bill of goods, abusing its agency relationship with Hurwitz in order to secure the license for the tour of ‘La La Land in Concert’ – only to self-deal by competing directly against Hurwitz for the profits from the tour,” the composer’s attorneys wrote.
In technical terms, Hurwitz is accusing WME of breach of its fiduciary duty to him, as well as breach of contract and breach of the so-called implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing – the basic obligation to act fairly in any deal. The lawsuit also accuses WME of negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud.