PARIS (AFP) - A French appeal court has ordered US stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to pay 568,000 euros (S$900,000) to a lighting designer they employed for their chateau in southern France, judicial sources said on Friday (Aug 18).
The court ruled on April 19 in favour of Odile Soudant, whose company went bankrupt, in the dispute with Chateau Miraval, the firm that manages the sprawling 17th-century property.
Pitt and Jolie – now separated – bought the property in the southern Provence region in 2008 and the actors got married in its chapel in 2014.
The multi-million dollar project to illuminate the 40-room chateau and three outbuildings involved as many as 17 full-time workers at one point but was not covered by a contract, according to the French newspaper Liberation.
The renovation of the chateau ran smoothly for two years – by which time it ran up 25 million euros in costs, Liberation reported, before technical problems and delays began cropping up, culminating in a billing dispute that brought payments to a halt.
The appeal court ruled that the delays were not Soudant’s fault.
Pitt, 53, and Jolie, 42, have been ordered to pay nearly 450,000 euros to the administrator of Soudant’s company Lumieres Studio to pay unpaid bills and compensate for harm to its reputation, the sources said.
In addition, Chateau Miraval must pay 60,000 euros to Soudant herself for harm to her reputation and some 8,000 euros in unpaid fees.
It owes another 50,000 euros in court costs.
A spokesman for Pitt told AFP: “We respect the court’s decision resolving this long-running, standard dispute regarding commercial issues and payment of invoices.”
Soudant headed the lighting section of prominent French architect Jean Nouvel’s studio before setting up Lumieres Studio in 2009.
It was this connection that prompted Pitt – an avid fan of Nouvel to the point of naming one of his daughters Shiloh Nouvel – to seek out Soudant for the work, Liberation reported.
Liberation said Soudant intends to pursue the dispute further for alleged copyright infringement.
“Brad Pitt bankrupted my company and appropriated my work,” she told the paper, saying Pitt claims authorship of the lighting at the property, which spreads over 400 hectares of woodland and vineyards near Aix-en-Provence.
Pitt’s spokesperson said the April ruling “does not address any copyright issues involving (lighting) designs developed by Brad.” According to Liberation, Soudant has also warned the French perfumer Guerlain over an advert featuring Jolie at the chateau that includes shots of the actress on a stairway for which Soudant designed the lighting.
NO PLANS TO SELL
Miraval’s vineyards produce award-winning rose and white wine, as well as an organic extra-virgin olive oil.
The Hollywood A-listers known jointly as Brangelina, who have six children, do not intend to sell the chateau despite their impending divorce, their winemaker Charles Perrin told AFP in March.
“It’s an investment for their family and their children,” he said. “They take part in everything to do with the vineyard. There are long-term projects, and we just produced their latest rose vintage.”
The couple have more than half a billion dollars worth in cumulative earnings, Forbes magazine reported shortly after news emerged in September 2016 that Jolie was seeking a divorce.