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The man who killed Don Quixote

This wonderful film starring Adam Driver and directed by Terry Gilliam was decades in the making and involved much trauma on the way, including a prolonged battle between Terry and Portuguese film producer, Paulo Branco. Unity’s clients, Recorded Picture Company became involved in the dispute because they originally had the rights to make the film and granted Branco an option to acquire those rights exercisable within 6 months. Meanwhile, Terry contracted with Branco and his company to direct the film but soon the two men fell out, largely because of the aggressive style of Mr Branco and his refusal to let Terry make the film in his own inimical style. It was plain to everybody that it would be very difficult to get the film made by Branco. Everybody also thought that the option had expired and so Recorded Picture Company granted a new option to another company, Tornasol Films.

There was then a twist in the plot. Out of the blue, Branco argued that an obscure force majeure clause in the contract between Branco, Alfama and Recorded Picture Company had the effect, in the circumstances of the dispute between Terry and Branco, of extending the option until that dispute was resolved. Unfortunately, the High Court and the Court of Appeal ([2018] EWCA Civ 767) agreed with him and Branco was encouraged to claim damages from Recorded Picture Company upon the basis that the granting of the option was a breach of his contract and he had thereby suffered damage.

However, there was a happy ending. Judge Hacon has found in a judgment handed won on 17 December that Branco and his company had suffered no loss because the evidence was clear that there was no way that Terry would ever have worked with Branco and, in any event, the evidence also showed that Branco could never have raised the money necessary to produce the film. The judge dismissed the claim and ordered that Branco pay Recorded Picture Company’s costs in an agreed sum ([2020] EWHC 3481).

Unity played a key role in the case. The client was on the record as acting for itself but Unity project managed the case for the client working closely with in-house solicitor, Justin Kelly and counsel, John Critchley to achieve the desired result. Justin Kelly commented “throughout the proceedings Roger Billins provided excellent and cost-efficient advice assisting with a clear sighted strategy”.

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