Tyrese Gibson and his production company Voltron Entertainment have filed a lawsuit against Joan Pendergrass, widow of music legend Teddy Pendergrass, over rights to the late singer’s life story.
In court documents obtained by TMZ on Friday, Sept. 29, Tyrese said Voltron secured the rights for a biopic back in 2011.
The lawsuit says Joan approved the deal in exchange for The Fast & Furious star agreeing to invest in the film and use his star power to promote Teddy’s legacy.
But Tyrese alleges Joan changed her mind in 2022, and backed out on the deal.
The actor and singer said his company had already invested $450,000 on the project, when the reversal occurred. He’s suing Joan as an individual and as the executor of Teddy’s estate, and seeking damages of at least $1 million.
Joan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, Tyrese posted a statement on Instagram Saturday offering more details on why he decided to pursue legal action.
“Sadly things had to come to this,” he wrote. “This has been 13 years+ years in the makin,’ this man embraced me when he was on this earth and shared to me ‘No one can play me in my biopic but you Tyrese I’m sure of it.'”
Tyrese, who is also involved in a legal battle with Home Depot alleging racial profiling, added that he remains optimistic he and Joan will eventually come to an agreement.
“I’m very, very sure this will all be figured out… Everyone in Hollywood will tell you bio-pics are some of the MOST challenging films to try and make because there are so many ‘Narratives’ and nuances that go into creating magic,” he added. “I owe it to my mother and Teddy to get this done!! Teddy Movie will happen!”
As previously reported, the Teddy Pendergrass biopic was officially announced in 2019.
Little Marvin (Them) was on board to direct, with Tyrese, Donald De Line (The Italian Job) and Lee Daniels (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) serving as producers, Variety reported at the time. Joan Pendergrass was listed as an executive producer on the project.
Teddy Pendergrass gained prominence in the 1970s as lead singer of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. He released his self-titled solo album in 1977, and was known for such hits as “Love T.K.O.” and “Turn Off The Lights.”
In 1982, he was involved in a near-fatal car crash that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The five-time Grammy nominee continued to perform despite his disability. He died in 2010 at age 59.