This case will probably be discussed in law schools for years to come, as an example of how not to draft a separation agreement:
Ten years after parting ways, actor Michael Douglas and ex-wife Diandra Douglas are back in court to battle it out over his latest earnings.
The 65-year-old star was said to have paid his former spouse a hefty $45 million, per the terms of their 2000 settlement, but according to a report in the New York Post, his current good fortune could add even more money to the old divorce deal.
It all comes down to actor’s decision to bring Gordon “Greed is good” Gekko back to the big screen in the upcoming “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Diandra Douglas’ legal eagles claim the original settlement not only awarded their client a financial share from the films her ex-husband made while they were together, but also any future spin-offs.
Now the question is whether or not the new take on “Wall Street” really is a spin-off. It should come as no surprise to learn Michael Douglas doesn’t think so. Arguing before a judge last week, his attorney insisted the movie is sequel, not a spin-off.
“They’re not the same thing,” lawyer Marilyn Chinitz said in a quote published in the Post.
My own position is that a “spin-off” takes a supporting character from the original film and puts him in a completely different story – for example, The Scorpion King, featuring The Rock’s character from The Mummy Returns.
(Question: would a movie featuring characters from another film in a small cameo appearance – Michael Keaton’s Jackie Brown character in Out of Sight, for example, or the Duke Brothers from Trading Places in Coming to America – count as a “spin-off”? What about a reboot like Batman Begins, or a prequel? How about Superman Returns, which continued the story from Superman II – cutting out two notoriously inferior sequels starring Christopher Reeve – with an entirely new case? Discuss.)
On the other hand, one could argue for an expansive definition of “spin-off,” which would encompass pretty much anything featuring the characters from the original Wall Street – including a sequel.
I’m not sure whose counsel made a mistake in not insisting that the term be defined in the contract. But if you want to know why pre- or post-nuptual agreements are so wordy, look to this case.