LOS ANGELES (CN) - Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios claims in court that former boxing champion Jake LaMotta bypassed an agreement that gives the studio right of first refusal on any sequel to the Martin Scorsese classic "Raging Bull," and wants a judge to make sure an in-production follow-up never sees the light of day.
MGM says LaMotta breached an agreement which dates back to the mid-seventies when LaMotta assigned rights to his book "Raging Bull" to Chartoff-Winkler Productions. The studio claims in Los Angeles Superior Court that it now holds those rights as Chartoff-Winkler's successor-in-interest, and with it the right of first refusal on any "Raging Bull" sequel.
LaMotta co-authored a follow-up to the "Raging Bull" book in 1986 - a sequel under the parties' agreement, MGM says.
The studio says it learned in June that LaMotta had given co-defendant RBII Production permission to make "Raging Bull II" without giving the studio right of first refusal.
"The RBII defendants have refused to comply with MGM's demands that they cease and desist from producing the sequel picture, and, on information and belief, principal photography on the sequel picture is nearly complete," the 7-page complaint states. "The RBII defendants have continued to act in derogation of MGM's right of first refusal despite having knowledge of that right and of LaMotta's failure to comply therewith."
MGM pans "Raging Bull II" as a low budget B-movie, and says that LaMotta is trading off the reputation of the Scorsese original in a way that will "irreparably tarnish" it.
"MGM brings this action to enforce its contractual rights and to protect the integrity and value of the picture and any derivative versions thereof," the complaint states.
This is not the studio's first legal wrangle over the rights to "Raging Bull." In 2009, Paula Petrella claimed ownership of the movie in a $1 million copyright suit against MGM and 20th Century Fox. She claimed the film was developed from a screenplay written by her father Frank Petrella in 1963, and that rights to movie reverted to her after his death in 1981. Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit heard Petrella's arguments on appeal.
Both Scorsese and DeNiro picked-up Academy Award nominations for the 1980 film. DeNiro's portrayal of LaMotta earned him the best actor award, but Scorsese lost out to Robert Redford's "Ordinary People."
Argentinean director Martin Guigui, whose previous credits include "National Lampoon's Cattle Call," is helming "Raging Bull II," which stars William Forsythe as LaMotta.
The studio is represented by Richard Kendall of Kendall Brill & Klieger in Los Angeles and seeks an injunction against the movie and unspecified damages for breach of contract, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, fraudulent business practices and unfair competition.
Neither Guigui's production company, nonparty Sunset Pictures, nor MGM's law firm immediately responded to requests for comment.