In the middle of the pandemic and just ahead of warnings of Ontario’s disastrous third wave of COVID-19 infections, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was settling a lawsuit over the movie “Run This Town”.
The film, which premiered at SXSW in 2019 before being released in early March 2020, features a fictionalized story about a bloated and tyrannical Toronto mayor named Rob and the young millennials employed at city hall and at a local newspaper when news of a crack scandal breaks.
Written and directed by Ricky Tollman and starring Ben Platt, and Canadians Nina Dobrev, Mena Massoud and Scott Speedman, British star Damian Lewis stepped into the role of the rage-filled mayor under heavy prosthetics.
Though drawing from alleged real-life events in Ford’s history including his own notorious crack video scandal, his time as a youth football coach, various inappropriate comments he made, and chaos at city hall, the film does not purport to be a biopic, but a fictionalized story which the Ford family is not happy about. Ford previously slammed the satire “Filth City” for making light of his brother’s addictions.
According to the Toronto Star, the Ford family launched a lawsuit against the film in April 2020, just as the pandemic started impacting the globe.
Seeking “damages in the sum of $10 million for misappropriation of personality and breach of privacy for publicly placing the plaintiff in a false light,” the lawsuit argued “Run This Town” was inflicting harm on the beneficiaries of the late Ford’s estate. Arguing the characterization was used without “authorization and misappropriated Robert Ford’s likeness and persona without paying the plaintiff and/or the Ford Family any compensation whatsoever,” the lawsuit alleges the family sought a copy of the script for review while the film was in production in 2018.
For Canadian writer-director Tollman, the timing of the lawsuit was “frustrating”.
“It was frustrating and sort of confusing because it happened quite some time after this film was released,” he explains. “It was just surprising that four or five or six weeks into the pandemic that this was how time was being spent.”
According to the Toronto Star, Tollman and the production were advised against sharing the script because “that’s not standard practice in the film industry or in any creative industry where people create things about real-life or fictional characters.”
Later, representing his late brother’s estate, Doug Ford Zoomed in to a mediation on February 11 of this year in which the defence filed a brief stating, “the film does not trade on Mayor Ford’s reputation and certainly does not put him in a false light. Unfortunate facts are still facts.”
Tollman also argued against the complaint Rob Ford was used in the marketing of the movie, calling it “factually incorrect.”
“The three faces you see on the poster are Mena Massoud, Ben Platt and Nina Dobrev, and the eyes of Damian Lewis in prosthetics,” he tells the Toronto Star.
The office of Doug Ford issued a statement to the Star, refuting any claims the premier was distracted by the family lawsuit against “Run This Town” while the third wave of the pandemic was brewing: “Since the start of this pandemic, the premier has spent nearly every waking hour focused on Ontario’s response to COVID-19, including hundreds of hours making phone calls, participating in briefings and meetings, and holding over 250 media availabilities with the press. Any insinuation that the premier’s focus hasn’t been on this pandemic is patently false.”