Movie producer Ismail Merchant has been blasted by irate actors for not paying them promptly for their work on his latest film Heights.

The REMAINS OF THE DAY filmmaker is accused of treating his headline stars - including Glenn Close and JAMES MARSDEN - generously, but at the expense of everyone else.

One actor says, "He's thrown lavish parties for the stars of the film and for celebrities who have walk-on parts.

"But then he screws the non-name cast and crew who worked sometimes until six in the morning. Now he's disconnected the phones at his production offices."

A spokesman for the SCREEN ACTORS GUILD says, "Actors started calling three weeks ago saying that they had not been paid, and payment was overdue.

"But I'm happy to announce that we took the appropriate action to get a swift payment due to the performers."

Merchant puts the delay in paying the performers down to the complicated process of issuing pay cheques.

He says, "Everyone has been paid. Sometimes the cheque is delayed a week, maybe two, maybe 10 days.

"Because it has to go through our payroll company, and then it is sent to the Screen Actors Guild, and then the Screen Actors Guild sends it out to the actors."

23/12/2003 17:20