The producers of Kites have a lot of explaining to do. First, the composer swiped a song from Lord of the Rings. Now it’s been revealed that the producers failed to pay some of the American actors that worked on the film.
Steven Michael Quezada, best known for his role as Gomez on AMC’s Breaking Bad, plays a cop in Kites. His character, listed in the credits as “Cop,” has a crucial speaking role in a shootout sequence in a Wild West-type motel.
Quezada posted at IMDb in February (under the screen name “smqgomez505”) that he had not been paid for a week’s worth of work on Kites. I spoke to Quezada earlier this week about his experience making the movie.
According to Quezada, conditions on the set of Kites were unusual. The only trailers were reserved for stars Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori, meaning that actors with smaller roles had to change into costume in a restroom. “They didn’t even have chairs for the actors.”
Screen Actors Guild contracts specify that actors must be paid for their work within five days. Quezada waited two weeks before calling the production office to ask why he hadn’t received his check.
“It was weird because, every show that I’m on, when you call the production office, somebody answers — especially when they’re in production. I would get an answering machine. I continued to leave messages. I started thinking this is a really shady deal.”
Quezada called SAG, which in turn forbade members from further work on Kites until the producers paid the actors what was already owed. At that point, the production moved elsewhere, possibly shooting the rest of the movie in Mexico. “All I know is they packed up and disappeared, but they finished the movie.”
Quezada knows of at least two other actors who haven’t received any payment for their work, and one who received half of what he’s owed. “It’s not even a whole lot of money, if you look at how much they spent.” The budget for Kites is estimated to be 60 crore rupees (approximately $13 million), a record for a Hindi movie.
Quezada hopes that going public with his grievance will force the producers of Kites to pay him for his work, even if the check is two years late. “I think I need to stand up for actors out here in New Mexico. Just because we’re not living in L.A. doesn’t mean we’re not professionals.
“I’m not greedy. I’m just a hard-working actor just trying to feed my family. I just want that paycheck. That’s it.”
Update: I just noticed a story that union crew members in California sued Kites producer Rakesh Roshan for failure to pay wages. I hope Roshan uses some of the movie’s profits to honor his promises to American workers.