In Hawaii, it's still morning so temporally, this 'Sunday Morning Rumor Mill' is highly appropriate. We're bringing the Sunday Morning Rumor Mill back, and to kick it of is the story of that the world has never heard of. If you like mulit-million dollar movie deals, international traveling, and covert operations to North African prisons -- this Rumor Mill is for you. Enjoy.
Most people won't believe this story since it involves a long string of the absolutely absurd, so this item will kick off this week's edition of the Sunday Morning Rumor Mill.
In early 2012 I met Bobby Razak, the founder of TapouT Films, at an Irish Pub called 'Dillon's' on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Vine. We exchanged compliments, then Razak brought up the 2011 Lee Murray interview I did from his prison cell in Morocco (something that actually needs to be reformatted). He wanted to know if it was legit (like everyone else has over the months) and I showed him the text messages along with a picture of Lee from his cell. Bobby Razak then told me that he was contacted by a major Hollywood studio to create a film on Lee Murray and that I was the only person in the media that has been in touch with him since he was shipped off to a Moroccan jail for the biggest heist in history. Razak disclosed all the details and told me if I could make this possible, I would be brought on as a producer and pocket quite a hefty amount of money.
I quickly got in touch with my Lee Murray contact and told him about the potential movie deal, after a few days he then conveyed the information to Lee to which he happily accepted the offer -- but under one condition. At the time, Lee believed that he was on the verge of getting out of prison due to some technicality that occurred during his trial. I'm not that familiar with the 'legal backdoor' that he told me about, but for him it was a very feasible thing that was going to occur at some point in early-mid 2012. Lee didn't want the news to break that he was working with a major studio to create a movie about his life, as he thought it may impair or prevent him from being released from jail. I ensured Lee that we talked to the studios and they agreed they will not press-release anything until Lee was ready to disclose information.
Great, everything was in order to get the movie deal done. I contacted my attorney to draft a contract in which myself, Bobby Razak, and Lee Murray would all equally share a 33% split of the net profit from the film. Razak then came up with an idea to create a documentary of the entire process, along with selling the international distribution rights of the film and documentary to other studios. To wrap the entire contract up, we also added the option to have exclusive rights to publish Lee Murray's story in the contract. Once everything was finalized by the attorney, it was on to the next arduous step.
In order to seal the deal, Bobby Razak and I had to fly to England to meet up with Lee Murray's contact, and then fly from London to Morocco and then take a long Humvee ride to the middle of the desert in order to get to the prison in which Lee Murray was located. Once we got there, Lee Murray's contact told us that in order to gain entrance inside the prison we would need to bribe the guards not with money -- but with an iPad. Yes, I'm absolutely serious. Apple's reign over humanity is blatantly apparent even in Northern Africa. We also knew that we would need footage of Lee Murray signing the deal to present to the studio as sheer evidence. The camera equipment Razak usually carried would most likely get confiscated by Moroccan prison officials and then never returned, so we purchased a small spy camera to place in our pockets. As a precautionary measure, we realized that if everything went as planned, upon exiting prison officials could just yank the contract from our hands and we would be essentially out of luck. In order to prevent this from going down, I purchased a battery operated pocket scanner that saved onto a Micro-SD chip. Once the contract was signed, it could easily be scanned and the Micro-SD could be covertly transferred from the device to my sock (or even mouth) if the guards decided to confiscate it. Razak wanted to hire an ex-Marine to serve as protection for the trip. He was willing to front the cost out of his own pocket, but I told him that it would only bring suspicion -- and that was the last thing we needed. Razak reluctantly scrapped the idea. We had a plan, now it was just time to execute it.
Razak and I hopped on a plane from LAX to London Heathrow and scheduled to meet up with Lee Murray's contact the same day we arrived. Once we touched down in the UK, we checked in at a pretty swank place in London and waited in the hotel lobby for Murray's contact to arrive. Razak and I were pounding espressos just to last until the end of the meeting. After a few cups, Murray's contact arrived, clad in a very clean Italian suit with perhaps the shiniest shoes I've ever seen in my life. Opposite of him were two roughneck guys that could so easily be in any Guy Ritchie film. They sat down, we shook hands, ordered some coffee and then we started talking about the impossible. I handed over the contract, discussed the details of it and each person at the table briefly scanned over it while sharing their vision of what they would want in a Lee Murray film. Just a background on the two additional dudes that were at the table: One of them served as Lee Murray's 'father figure' throughout his life and the other was Murray's close friend and a retired fighter. In fact, as we went further in the conversation, Razak discovered that he actually fought on the same card as him years ago in England.
Although the meeting was supposed to be entirely about business, it turned into an impromptu lecture on everything Lee Murray. It was superfluous, but I knew that in order to move on with the deal, I needed to let these guys vent and pretend like I was vaguely interested in what they had to say. One guy (the retired fighter) even said that he wished that Lee Murray took him on board as a part of his crew in the heist because he knew that he could have been a valuable asset to the crime of the century. These guys weren't necessarily the polished image of a 'model citizen' by any means.
After what seemed like an hour of aimless conversation, I managed to wrangle everyone's fleeting thoughts together to discuss getting the Lee Murray contract signed. One of the guys (Murray's father figure) abruptly said 'You're not going to Morocco anytime soon, it takes weeks to set up a trip to see Lee.'
The world just collapsed from beneath me.
I wanted to pick up a fork from the table and stab each one of these guys directly in their eye for wasting my time and above all else, money. Bobby Razak knew that I was getting agitated, so he stepped in and took over the rest of the conversation. It was the end of winter, and the hotel lobby just got a tad colder when I realized that this entire trip may have been for absolutely nothing. Razak eventually convinced the guys to take the contract, read it to Lee, and then get back to us later that day. At this point, I didn't have a remote interest in anything they had to say. We waved our goodbyes and then both of us sat motionless in the lobby. After a few minutes, my Lee Murray contact called up and told me that the guy who told us we weren't going to Morocco only did that to protect Lee and in reality, he could arrange a visit as soon as the next day. Whew! Everything was not lost.
Muray's contact told us that he was personally going to read the contract to Lee and then call me up later that night. In the meantime, Razak and I raided the hotel restaurant bar. A few hours and a multitude of drinks later, I received a call from Murray's contact. He told me that he read the papers to Lee and he said there was no way he was agreeing to a 33% equal split. Instead, Lee Murray wanted a 95% share and Razak and I were going to both take in 2.5% each. We knew we were going to get paid on the back end from the movie studio as producers/writers/directors, so we happily agreed to these terms. We just needed to get this deal done. Next, Lee said he wanted a 'significant' signing bonus -- something in the range of $500,000 to $1,000,000. We previously discussed this with the studio and they agreed they could find a six-figure mark they could mutually agree on. Not a problem. Lee also stated that he wanted to see a written statement from the studio saying they're interested in the project. Now this -- this was a problem. A massive problem.
If the studio drafted a letter of interest, it could be shopped around Hollywood, which would ultimately be counter-productive to the studio that created the letter of interest. They wanted an exclusive deal to Lee Murray's life rights, not to get in a bidding war with other production companies. We explained this to Lee Murray's contact, and he told us that he would tell Lee the next day. Fingers were crossed the remainder of that night. The next morning, Murray's contact got back with us and informed us that before he signed the deal, he wanted his lawyer to look over the paper work and that it would take a few days since he was on holiday. 'That's cool,' I thought. We traveled half-way across the planet, waiting a few more days isn't going to hurt. We extended our stay at the overpriced hotel and continued to patiently wait. I actually published the list of 'The Top Ten Unreleased MiddleEasy Videos You've Never Seen' while we were waiting around in London for this movie deal to be finalized.
Days go by, and Murray's contact told us that Lee's attorney was still looking over the contract. We had to get out of the hotel (which was located near Canary Wharf) since it was entirely too expensive and decided that if we were going to be staying for an extended amount of time, it might as well be an affordable place in the heart of Central London. We packed up our stuff and moved to our new hotels -- which were actually better than our previous ones. At this point, since we didn't hear back from Murray's attorney in time, we assumed that we were in fact not going to Morocco to get this thing signed.
We met up with Lee Murray's contact at a bar in London and he told us the deal was definitely going to get done, but with Murray's attorney on holiday, the timing of the trip was just a bit off. We knew we weren't going to Morocco, so we sat Murray's contact down and proposed that he should visit Lee in prison and get him to sign the contract. He agreed and we all shared a few drinks and tapas at some amazing Spanish restaurant in London. Bobby and I knew that since we were literally hemorrhaging money by staying in London, we needed to get back to Los Angeles. We changed our flight itinerary and the next day we were scheduled to leave from Heathrow to LAX. Just as Bobby and I were locating our gate in the airport, I got a phone call from my contact. He said that Lee (and his attorney) agreed to every term of the contract, but he wanted something in writing from the studio to assure the deal was real. Unexpected victory -- well, almost.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, Razak got on the phone with the movie studio and explained the entire situation. They agreed to send him a letter expressing their interest to purchase his life story, but that it needed to be kept confidential between both parties.
Now call this coincidence or just downright bizarre, but just weeks after we arrived in the US it was announced that XYZ studios partnered up with Universal Studios to produce a Lee Murray film based on the unofficial story. A project completely independent of what we were doing with Lee Murray. In fact, the film is based off a Sports Illustrated article entitled "Breaking The Bank." Yeah, just a tad strange.
After a few days, Razak sent me the letter to which I emailed to Murray's contact back in the UK. The contact then told me that it looks great, and referred me to his contact inside the prison -- some fast-talking Moroccan guy. In the constant mindset of 'Let's get this done,' I opened dialogue with this Moroccan guy that I've never met or spoken to. I should have known things were going to get a little dicey, but I was so headstrong with sealing this deal that I ignored all the faint warning signs.
The Moroccan guy told me that he saw Lee everyday and that he would be the one handling the contract. He asked to see the letter of interest, which we provided to him. After days of discussing the deal with the Moroccan guy, Razak got a call early one Thursday morning from an executive at the studio who told us some Moroccan guy has been leaving voice mails on his phone the past couple days. Turns out that this Moroccan guy saw the name of the executive that wrote the letter of interest, somehow found his phone number through the magic of the internet -- and tried to cut us out of the entire deal.
This moron went behind our backs to try to cut a direct deal with the executive of the movie studio and leave us with nothing. We later found out that he actually cut out my Lee Murray contact from the deal just days before. Since we knew the deal was out of our hands, we did the only thing that we could to protect our investment -- kill it.
Bobby and I convinced the movie executive (and the studio) that the deal was too caustic and the last thing they needed was harassing phone calls from the inside of a Moroccan prison. We also told them that since XYZ studios was already doing a film on Lee Murray, their (our) project was somewhat senseless. They agreed and in the Summer of 2012, the Lee Murray film project was no more.
No one got paid. Lee Murray is still in prison, and that idiot Moroccan dude is still an idiot Moroccan dude.