'Weekend at Bernie's' Creators Dig Up Dead Guy's Past in Lawsuit

PHOTO: In this publicity still for "Weekend at Bernies," actors Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser and Andrew McCarthy, left to right, are pictured in 1989.
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The creators of the classic '80s comedy "Weekend at Bernie's" claim that just like their boss Bernie in the movie, they have been "stiffed" by the studios.

Writer Robert Klane and director Ted Kotcheff were behind the 1989 cult-classic, which depicts the antics of two employees parading their dead boss, Bernie Lomax, around his beach house as though he were still alive. In gleaming white sports jackets and colorful suits, actor Andrew McCarthy stars as Larry while his co-conspirator Richard, is played by actor Jonathan Silverman.

More than 25 years after the release of the film (with the slogan, "He's the life of the party...well, almost"), Klane and Kotcheff filed on Friday a lawsuit against MGM Holdings Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., claiming the party was far from over. The two claim they were "exploited" after "delivering one of the most hilarious and endearing goofball comedies of the 80's."

Scott Burroughs, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, he and his clients will learn just how much money the film earned and how much his clients should receive during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs estimate in the lawsuit that domestic theatrical gross receipts for the film and the residuals "are in excess" of $30 million and $16 million, respectively.

"It's always important that the creators behind the film are compensated for their work in addition to the corporate entities that distribute the work," he said. "Mr. Klane and Mr. Kotcheff spent a lot of time and effort making this film, which was a project they believed in. To be denied their rightful compensation is just plain wrong."

Klane and Kotcheff declined to comment further.

A spokeswoman for MGM declined to comment about the lawsuit. Twentieth Century Fox did not respond to a request for comment. The defendants will have 30 days to file a legal response once they receive the lawsuit.

For the film released in the same year as "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Back to the Future Part II," filmmakers are suing the studios for breach of contract and "implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing," among other actions.

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Klane, who wrote for the television series "M*A*S*H" and "National Lampoon's European Vacation," claims he was to receive a "flat fee and a percentage of the film's net profits, as defined in the writer agreement," the lawsuit states, plus a flat fee for his executive producing services. Whether the film had merchandise of '80s shades, Converse sneakers, beach gear, and windbreakers is not specified in the lawsuit.

In the suit, Klane alleges that like Bernie, he was stiffed, claiming that he has "not received any royalties or any percentage of the net profits from the film."

Don't forget Klane wrote and directed the 1993 sequel, "Weekend at Bernie's II," in which Larry and Richard use voodoo to revive their dead boss. The tagline of the film, which features Bernie in a conga line on the U.S. Virgin Islands ("He's a great dancer!"): "Bernie's back...and he's still dead!"

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Kotcheff, who is described in the lawsuit as the "famous and highly-sought-after director" behind the Sylvester Stallone film "Rambo: First Blood," says that his contract entitles him to a percentage of the film's adjusted gross receipts, which include revenue from "all sources, including home video" in the U.S. and Canada and "certain revenues" from "any foreign medium or territory," the lawsuit alleges.

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