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“Reeks Of Homophobia & …Blatant Censorship”: Director Paris Barclay Slams Billy Preston Documentary Fraud Lawsuit – Update

UPDATE, 10:55 AM: A fraud lawsuit against a documentary about Billy Preston did not stop the film’s debut at SXSW last week.

Today, the multi-Emmy winning director of Billy Preston: That’s The Way God Planned It responded to the action by Sam Moore and others, and their claims of misrepresentation by the filmmakers.

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“We’re extremely proud of Billy Preston: That’s The Way God Planned It and watched as people have both celebrated his enormously influential talent, and been deeply moved by his struggles, Paris Barclay told Deadline in a statement Tuesday. “This meritless complaint, which reeks of homophobia and attempts at blatant censorship, is a sad reminder that his story is more important than ever to tell.”

A star unto himself, Preston played with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many more over his illustrious career. Preston died in 2006 at the age of 59.

SXSW 2024 continues until March 16.

PREVIOUSLY, MARCH 8 AM: EXCLUSIVE: A documentary about the legendary Billy Preston that’s set to debut tonight at SXSW might not see the light of day.

“Instead of creating the film that they falsely described to Plaintiffs, Defendants White Horse Pictures, LLC, Homegrown Pictures, Inc. and Oyster Productions, LLC, by and through their principals and representatives Defendants Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Stephanie Allain Bray, Paris C.K. Barclay and Cheo Hodari Coker (collectively, ‘Defendants’), produced a film that is a salacious, posthumous ‘outing’ of Mr. Preston that centers on his sexuality – a deeply personal matter that Mr. Preston kept private until immediately before his untimely death – to the exclusion of many of the late musician’s notable accomplishments,” reads the fraud complaint filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, Preston Music Group, Ken Burke and others.

The Paris Barclay-directed documentary, Billy Preston: That’s The Way God Planned It, is set to make its world premiere at 6:15 p.m. CT Friday at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin. The two-claim complaint (read it here) seeks an immediate “injunction preventing Defendants from exhibiting, screening, distributing, selling or otherwise exploiting the Documentary containing intellectual property and other materials provided by and belonging to Plaintiffs, including, without limitation footage from the interviews given by Plaintiffs Joyce Moore, Samuel Moore and Kenneth Burke.”

Preseton was a singer, songwriter and keyboard wiz who famously collaborated with the Fab Four, a teaming chronicled in Peter Jackson’s epic docuseries The Beatles: Get Back, before going on to a successful solo career. He hit No. 2 in the U.S. with his Grammy-winning 1972 instrumental “Outa-Space” before topping the Billboard 200 with “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing From Nothing” during the next two years. He also worked with George Harrison after the Beatles’ breakup, earning a second Grammy for his contributions to The Concert for Bangladesh. Preston died in 2006 at 59.

The 29-page complaint is very specific about its discontent with the doc.

“In particular, the Documentary contains extensive commentary from an individual who never even met Mr. Preston regarding the roots of his homosexuality and impact of childhood sexual abuse,” the jury trial-seeking filing says. “The prominent feature of that scandalous material originating from someone to whom Mr. Preston was a complete stranger (and who apparently was owed a favor on a quid pro quo basis by the film’s director) is jarring and out of place. Their inclusion, the overall framing of the Documentary and the manner in which the film is being marketed, all confirm that this project is about pushing the director’s and producers’ personal agendas and financial benefit rather than the homage to Billy Preston that was sold to Plaintiffs.”

In an occurrence of something plus something equals something, the plaintiffs have hired Hollywood heavyweight Marty Singer and his colleague Melissa Lerner to represent them in the legal action.

“With the lawsuit filed today,” Singer and Lerner told Deadline, “our office is joining the fight to protect Mr. Preston because, tragically, he is no longer alive to defend himself and seek a court order to stop any further distribution of defendants’ film and preserve the integrity of Mr. Preston’s memory and his extensive achievements.”

Deadline reached out to reps for the documentary but has not heard back. If and when we do, we will update this post.

The 2024 SXSW Festival begins today and runs through March 16. Here is the official synopsis for Billy Preston: That’s The Way God Planned It:

With his signature gospel sound on the Hammond B3, Billy Preston doublehandedly elevated the greatest artists of his time – from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, from Aretha Franklin to Eric Clapton, from Ray Charles to Barbra Streisand to Sly and the Family Stone. In our film, we explore Billy’s career and influence on generations of musicians, as he scored several number one hits of his own and became one of the most sought-after musicians in the world. He did all of this as a soul divided — by his deep roots in the church, in constant conflict with his identity as a gay Black man, searching for a family of his own that would accept him for who he was.

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