Lawsuit • Indy film producers dispute involves bad-guy actor and Apple co-founder.
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A brawl is breaking out between two independent film producers that is as full of innuendo and intrigue as the bad-ass movies both are known for making.
At the center of the fight: Danny Trejo, an actor famed for his tough-guy roles, and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer.
Trejo agreed in 2006 to star in a series of vigilante films produced by Gil Medina, owner of Utah-based ITN Flix. As part of that deal, Trejo agreed he would not appear in any other films that might tarnish the vigilante film franchise, Medina claims in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Utah.
The first in the series, called "Vengeance," is supposed to be released in November 2013. To promote the movie, Medina hired a Utah company to make a game app. Medina got backing for the project from Wozniak, who agreed to promote the app and let his likeness and voice be used in the game.
The game, called "Danny Trejo's Vengeance: Woz with a Coz," was to debut on Nov. 22, 2012 and be a big money-maker, bringing in as much as $5 million a month. Early reviewers raved about the game, the complaint says.
According to the complaint, all of this didn't sit well with Robert Rodriguez, whose 2010 film "Machete" and the 2013 sequel "Machete Kills" also stars Trejo.
Rodriguez also made "El Mariachi," which was shown at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival and screened again just this year.
Medina alleges Rodriguez did not get permission to use Trejo in his films. Medina also claims that Rodriguez, fearful of the impact on his own movies, conspired with Trejo's agent to shut down the game app and film and "used threats and intimidation to do so."
Gloria Hinojosa, Trejo's agent, and Rodriguez "bullied, threatened, and intimidated all people involved with the film and the app game to damage sales and sever business relationships," the lawsuit alleges. Hinojosa also demanded that ITN delete images in the game that showed Trejo holding a machete, according to complaint, and told Wozniak and his wife that Medina was a "fraud" and a "con man."
Because of such insinuations Woznaik backed out of promotion and assistance with the game, the lawsuit says, and pulled a personal endorsement from his Facebook page.
Medina's lawsuit says the interference cost him more than $11 million in game sales, damaged his reputation and may impact the film.
"Rodriguez intended to hurt and halt sales of the app game because he knew that by doing so, he would be hurting and damaging sales, completion, promotion and success of the film," Medina alleges.
Attorneys Joseph Pia and Sara Payne, who represent Medina, were not available Tuesday. The Salt Lake Tribune also asked Hinojosa and Rodriguez to comment, but did not receive responses.