NZ union supports LOTR actors' legal action

Chur Chur to the Union organiser Teresa brown, thats my little sis, go hard sis

New Zealand actors suing New Line studio over their share of profits from merchandising from the Lord of the Rings trilogy have the backing of their union, Actors Equity.

Union organiser Teresa Brown described the situation as a "typical David and Goliath scenario", and said it was important for the 15 Zealand actors taking the action to be supported.

Variety Magazine reported actors named in the suit filed yesterday at Los Angeles Superior Court were Noel Appleby, Jed Brophy, Mark Ferguson, Ray Henwood, Bruce Hopkins, William Johnson, Nathaniel Lees, Sarah McLeod, Ian Mune, Paul Norell, Craig Parker, Robert Pollock, Martyn Sanderson, Peter Tait and Stephan Ure.

Hopkins, who played Gamling in the movie trilogy and is part of the Actors Equity Performers Commmittee, said he was grateful for the support from his union.

"It's time for NZ performers to stand up and be treated with the respect we deserve," Hopkins said today.

A spokesman for New Line - which is also involved in a similar dispute with Wellington director Peter Jackson over profits from the fantasy trilogy - said the company did not comment on pending litigation.

The magazine reported the actors received royalty statements from New Line which showed that despite millions of dollars having been earned from sales of lunchboxes, T-shirts, caps and other LOTR material, there was zero "net merchandising revenue."

Ms Brown said while there was no guarantee of a positive legal outcome, it was essential to ensure the issue was dealt with properly.

"By standing together we can ensure the issue is dealt with in a fair and proper manner.

"It's important that we provide support for our local performers at a local level and international level through the international links we share with other performers' unions" Ms Brown said.

The actors contacted attorney Henry Gradstein, who filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to recover money the actors claimed they are owed under paragraph 11 of their contracts.

The actors believed that paragraph promised them 5 percent of "net merchandising revenue" to be split among all actors whose characters are portrayed on the merchandise.

"What the actors didn't realise is that gross merchandising revenue apparently became `net merchandising revenue' after certain unexpected expenses were deducted," the magazine reported.

The biggest of these was a 50 percent distribution fee that the actors had never seen mentioned anywhere in their contract, according to papers filed in the case.

There were also other payments and fees that the actors felt were not "related to the generation of the relevant merchandising revenue."

After looking at all the fees that were being deducted from the gross revenues, the actors figured it would be impossible to ever have any "net merchandising revenue" no mattter how much merchandise was sold.

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