When he couldn’t find financing for Hustle & Flow, which starred Taraji Henson, and Terrence Howard as a Memphis pimp who after a midlife crisis embarks on a career as a hip-hop emcee, Mr. Singleton put up $5 million of his own money to bankroll the project.

Hustle & Flow went on to become a sensation at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with a whole host of studios bidding for the film. Even though other studios offered more money, Mr. Singleton gave the film to Paramount Pictures. Why?

Because it not only agreed to pay $9 million for the film, but also pledged to finance and distribute two films of Singleton’s choosing, with $3.5-million budgets each. More than six years after the deal and despite Hustle & Flow’s $22 million grossing in the United States, glowing reviews and an Oscar, Mr. Singleton is shocked at Paramount’s surprising twist to the whole deal.

So Mr. Singleton takes them to court and decidedly so. He is suing Paramount for $20 million (I think it should be a lot more), saying the studio failed to live up to its end of the bargain, having never made either picture in the agreement (which is known in Hollywood as a put deal).

Mr. Singleton whose thriller Abduction starred Taylor Lautner believed the Paramount put deal would give him an opportunity to showcase his talent as a producer says;

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”” quotestyle=”style03″]The model I wanted to set up is a lot like the model other people are going after — to make small movies that have a real pop-culture value. It’s worked with films like ‘Juno’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ because there’s a niche audience that just isn’t served by the big Hollywood franchises.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]

But after several years of submitting projects to Paramount, both in the form of sketched-out ideas and in the form of packaged films, with talent attached, Mr. Singleton said he became concerned that Paramount seemed uninterested in anything he wanted to make.

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”” quotestyle=”style03″]They just kept thwarting my efforts to make any of the movies. I gave them a number of projects and they were all rejected. It became plain that they weren’t going to honor the deal. After years of haggling, Paramount began asserting self-imposed, non-existent conditions on the puts that prevented me from making the pictures.
Why would they? So Mr. Singleton had this to say,

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”” quotestyle=”style03″]I’d always had a great relationship with Paramount, going back to being an intern on the lot when I was at USC. But a deal’s a deal and they didn’t honor the deal. I could have sold ‘Hustle & Flow’ for more money to someone else, but Paramount promised something special — giving me the ability to make two low-budget films with young filmmakers and great talent. All I’ve ever done is make money for Paramount. I’ve lived up to all the deals I’ve signed and it should work both ways. This is about me as a producer and a business person. I invested my time and money in this project. It was about being an entrepreneur. I thought I had a partner in Paramount, but that’s not what happened. Whatever films I wanted to make there, it feels like no one was ever listening.

Responding to the suit, which was filed Wednesday morning in Los Angeles County Superior Court, an unidentified Paramount representative said:

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”” quotestyle=”style03″]Paramount was hoping that John Singleton would produce two more pictures before his agreement with our studio ended in 2010, but that did not happen. Instead, he went on to direct ‘Abduction’ for Lionsgate. Paramount fulfilled all of its obligations and his claims have absolutely no merit.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]

A classic response when they are about to screw with your head. But Mr. Singleton has all the cards in his hands. He can play them now, and much to his credit, but I feel his/our naivety with the system once again comes into question. But a deal is a deal no matter what Paramount thinks and believes. Mr. Singleton is represented by Marty Singer and Stephen D. Barnes. Singer is one of the top litigators in show business, having represented the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlie Sheen and Quentin Tarantino.

Mr. Singleton is best known for his groundbreaking 1991 debut film, Boyz N’ the Hood. He had carved out a successful career as a filmmaker by the time he took Hustle & Flow to Sundance, having directed a number of commercial pictures, including a remake of Shaft at Paramount. But his goal was to become a producer, overseeing modestly budgeted, multicultural genre films that he believed would fill a void in the marketplace.

Read the original article here.


  1. Can’t say I’m surprised to hear this 🙁 Studios seem to never want to part with money, even when it’s not theirs! I hope he wins the suit. He would be a good person to produce movies with all the experience and success he’s had directing.


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