Attorneys for the Allman Brothers Band singer want a Superior Court judge to order Unclaimed Freight Productions “to cease all efforts to make a motion picture based upon the life of Gregg Allman and/ or his autobiography,” according the lawsuit filed last week in Savannah.
Production on “Midnight Rider,” a movie based on Allman’s 2012 memoir “My Cross to Bear,” had just begun in Savannah when crew members were stuck by a train Feb. 20 on a trestle spanning the Altamaha River in nearby Wayne County. Sarah Jones, a 28-year-old camera assistant, was killed. Six other members of director Randall Miller’s crew were injured, either by the train or by flying shrapnel from a bed placed on the tracks. Authorities investigating the crash say CSX Railroad, which owns the tracks, told them it did not give producers permission to film there.
Producers suspended work on the movie indefinitely the following week. Actor William Hurt, who was to star as Allman and was at the scene of the crash, later issued a statement saying he informed producers he would no longer work on the film.
Allman’s attorneys say “Midnight Rider” producers lost their rights to the singer’s life story when they failed to start principal photography by Feb. 28 and came up $9,000 short of an unspecified sum they had agreed to pay Allman for those film rights. The lawsuit says both those conditions were spelled out in Allman’s contract with Unclaimed Freight.
“Through my representatives, I have objected to Defendants’ plan to proceed with the motion picture,” Allman says in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit on April 28. Regardless, producers have told Allman’s representatives they plan to move forward with the movie, the lawsuit says.
A spokeswoman for Unclaimed Freight, Melissa Nathan, said Monday the producers had no comment. Their attorneys had not filed any response in court. In documents filed with the lawsuit, lawyers for Allman say the producers told them footage shot on the train tracks before the fatal crash satisfied the principal photography deadline.
Allman’s attorneys say they reviewed the footage and “none of it contained any dialogue whatsoever or appeared suitable for inclusion in the film,” according to the court documents.
A Chatham County Superior Court judge scheduled a hearing May 12 on Allman’s request for an order restraining producers from doing further work on the movie until the lawsuit is resolved.
“Midnight Rider” producers have declined to comment on reports that they plan to resume shooting this summer, based on communications with the film-workers union. In an email April 14, an attorney for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees writes that “Midnight Rider” producers told the union they plan to restart the project in Los Angeles by June. A copy of the email was attached to Allman’s lawsuit.
Criminal charges could still be filed in connection with the train crash. Wayne County sheriff’s investigators have turned over their findings to local prosecutors, who have yet to announce a decision.