Ron Meyer, the O.J. Movie, and L’Affaire Charlotte Kirk

CAA co-founder Ron Meyer. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
July 31, 2022

Right now, in some lawyer’s office, there is a 2017 audio recording of one of the most powerful Hollywood executives of the past half century saying of O.J. Simpson, “I always thought he was guilty until I read Josh’s script… Let’s make this movie before this guy gets out of prison… We’ll find ways to get this movie financed and distributed.” The voice on that recording allegedly belongs to Ron Meyer, the legendary CAA co-founder, Universal Studios president, and vice chairman at NBCUniversal, who, two years after exiting amid a scandal involving his affair with actress Charlotte Kirk, is now at the center of a $150 million lawsuit almost as unbelievable as the notion that O.J. isn’t a murderer.

On one level, that audio tape—which Meyer’s lawyer, Danya Perry, suggests may violate California’s criminal law against eavesdropping—is a remnant from l’affaire Kirk. She’s the actress who claimed she was coerced into sex with several Hollywood executives and then fought to lift a gag order that had kept her silent. Both Meyer and Kevin Tsujihara, the former Warner Bros. C.E.O. who also stepped down over a Kirk affair, have denied anything but brief, consensual relationships with her. But both were alleged to have sought acting roles for Kirk. One such role was Nicole Brown Simpson in Nicole & O.J., a $65 million film directed by Joshua Newton that purports Simpson was framed for double-murder, based on Newton’s own reexamination of the evidence.  

Newton, yet another former boyfriend of Kirk, now sees something sinister in what Meyer allegedly said on that recorded call about his O.J. movie, and Meyer’s close attention to his project now forms the basis of litigation against NBCUniversal and its former executive. This past week, both Meyer and NBCU separately moved to dismiss the claims. These latest court papers, as well as a podcast interview that Meyer gave a few weeks ago, provide fresh perspectives on one of the most sordid episodes in modern Hollywood.

Back in 2016, Kirk, who had met Meyer at a film festival, introduced Newton to Meyer, then one of the most powerful figures in entertainment. Despite Newton having only a few minor credits, Meyer read his scripts, invited him to his office at Universal, and allegedly assured him that his films would be made. “You’re the new Stanley Kubrick,” Meyer told Newton, according to his lawsuit, in which Kirk is identified only as “Jane Doe.”

Meyer claims he was merely offering advice to Kirk’s boyfriend and was surprised by what later happened. “I tried to be helpful to him… all of a sudden, I got a letter from him and his lawyer trying to sue me for not giving him good advice, or whatever you want to call it,” Meyer recently told a podcaster.

What Newton would call it, however, is a promise. The director says Meyer acted on behalf of Universal and held himself out as his talent agent. Meyer allegedly arranged to have filmmaker Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon), another figure involved in the Kirk scandal, fully finance Nicole & O.J at $20 million, or at least attach his name as co-producer so that other financiers would see the project as credible. Newton says he later came to realize that Ratner’s offer “was part of a fraudulent scheme” to manipulate Kirk into thinking she’d be getting a starring role and thus forgo a lawsuit.

In August 2017, according to Newton, Kirk had retained lawyers to pursue sexual misconduct claims against Tsujihara, Ratner, Australian billionaire James Packer, and top indie film producer Avi Lerner, when a mediation session occurred. The director says he attended the mediation as a “support person” for Kirk. “At the mediation, the participants of the mediation pressured Newton to agree to incorporate into Jane Doe’s Settlement Agreement an obligation to enter into a separate film financing agreement on terms which were considerably less favorable than what Ratner had offered and Newton, on the advice of Meyer, had accepted at the Beverly Hills Hotel meeting on August 7, 2017,” states an amended complaint. “During the mediation, Ratner leaped at Newton and threatened to punch him in the face if he didn’t sign the Settlement Agreement.”

Newton says he never even got the money under the “seriously diluted financing and production arrangements accepted under duress,” both because of the nature of the project—Meyer, on the aforementioned recorded phone call, said Ratner worried about the Jewish community’s reaction to the film since Ronald Goldman was Jewish—and because of sexual harassment allegations that would soon surface against Ratner.

Nevertheless, in several phone calls and emails in late 2017, Meyer remained committed. “Let’s get this closed and move on to positive things, especially making your film,” he is alleged to have said. “We’ll find ways to get this movie financed and distributed” is another quote. Also: “I want my company to see it.” 

Newton was able to wrangle some money to film a few scenes for Nicole & O.J, which Meyer allegedly encouraged him to take to the Cannes Film Festival to promote. Then, the Kirk stuff got out—first in chatter (Lerner allegedly told Sylvester Stallone) and later, in the media. In particular, my old publication, The Hollywood Reporter, published several prominent stories in March 2018 about Tsujihara’s affair and all the backroom dealmaking. The scandal exploded, and Newton says the damage was “immediate and potentially career-ending.” Just as THR was writing about Kirk, which led to the resignation of Tsujihara, the Nicole & O.J. material was being screened for Jason Blum, head of Blumhouse, in which Universal is an investor. Blum passed, as did others. The project fell into purgatory, and when Kirk pursued new legal claims, alleging that Meyer had been secretly inserted into the settlement deal without her knowledge, Meyer allegedly told Newton, “That fucking cunt, I did nothing wrong. All I did was fuck her a couple of times.” When Newton told Kirk of the conversation, Meyer allegedly stopped taking his calls. Then came the $150 million lawsuit.

A moral evaluation of Meyer’s behavior aside, did he do anything legally wrong here? Newton is now represented by the Nesenoff Miltenberg firm and alleges that the executive should have disclosed conflicts of interest. The lawsuit (see the full amended complaint here) claims that Meyer, instead, breached fiduciary duties, made misrepresentations, and committed promissory fraud.

In a just-filed motion to dismiss the suit (read here), Meyer attacks Newton for suing over an “informal, never-memorialized, chimerical relationship,” and that far from being Newton’s agent, Meyer “owed fiduciary duties to NBCU and not to Plaintiff.”

The relationship between Newton and Meyer seems strange enough that I wouldn’t presume to know how the judge will respond, but Meyer’s other big argument about the lawsuit is pretty convincing. In saying stuff like “We’ll find ways to get this movie financed and distributed,” Meyer contends that vague statements of future intention don’t represent much of a promise.

NBCU also wants to get out of this case, telling the judge that Meyer’s affair was outside the scope of his employment. Per the company’s memorandum: “NBCU had nothing to do with Mr. Meyer’s relationship with Ms. Doe, nothing to do with his ensuing entanglement with Ms. Doe and her boyfriends, and nothing to do with any film projects Mr. Newton may have discussed with Mr. Meyer.”

NBCU is represented by Daniel Petrocelli, who once represented Ron Goldman’s family in the successful civil suit against O.J. over those murders. He’s now in court seeking to get a client out of a legal entanglement concerning an O.J. movie. To quote Shakespeare, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”