Meghan Markle’s father is suing the infamous paparazzi agency that staged bizarre photos of him, alleging the pictures and ensuing media saga ruined his relationship with his daughter and son-in-law Prince Harry.
Thomas Markle Sr. on Tuesday sued Coleman-Rayner, a tawdry photo agency owned by British tabloid vets Mark Coleman and Jeff Rayner, alleging the photo agency violated a contract to take photographs of him before the royal wedding in 2018. The lawsuit, which was filed in L.A. Superior Court, seeks $1 million in damages.
Markle Sr., a former Hollywood lighting director, said Rayner and a fellow pap tracked him down to his home in Rosarito, Mexico, and convinced him to pose up for a series of candid-seeming snaps that would be published in the weeks leading up to the royal wedding.
Markle Sr. said paparazzi had already photographed him doing menial tasks like taking out the garbage, and he hoped the photos would improve his image in the tabloids. He alleged that he agreed in March 2018 to be photographed by Coleman-Rayner in exchange for approval on all photos prior to their syndication, a $1,500 cash payment, and a 30-percent share of future sales of the images, according to a copy of the lawsuit reviewed by The Daily Beast.
But the photo shoot didn’t exactly go as planned. Markle Sr. was photographed in hilariously choreographed situations, including lifting small weights, reading picture books about Great Britain and news about his daughter on an internet café desktop, and being measured for a new suit. After the photos were published, British tabloid The Mail on Sunday discovered that Markle Sr. had collaborated with paparazzi on the photoshoot, seemingly in contradiction of an earlier Buckingham Palace plea to the press to respect the elder Markle’s privacy and not pursue him for photographs.
The staged photo scandal, thereafter dubbed the “Markle Debacle,” created a massive PR headache for the royals ahead of Prince Harry’s 2018 nuptials with the former Suits star actress.
Markle Sr. noted in the lawsuit that he was, indeed, given his cash payment. However, he added in the handwritten complaint, “the contract was breached” when, “according to my daughter Meghan, Duchess of Sussex during a broadcast of CBS This Morning... ‘the tabloids had known for a month’ but yet I was never given a chance to approve images.”
He further added in the complaint that he was not paid the promised percentage of sales for other photos the agency staged. Furthermore, Markle Sr. claimed, the saga caused him two heart attacks as well as “world wide embarrassment and ridicule while losing my relationship with my daughter Meghan and son in law Prince Harry.”
When reached for comment, Coleman-Rayner issued a threatening statement attributed to their lawyer: “Mr. Markle’s hand-written court filing is so obviously frivolous that Mr. Markle, The Daily Beast, and anyone else who republishes the details of Mr. Markle’s court filing, will be liable to Coleman-Rayner for defamation.”
This isn’t the first time the agency has come under fire from celebrities they’ve allegedly targeted.
In 2017, fitness guru Richard Simmons sued Coleman-Rayner for libel over erroneous articles and accompanying photos suggesting the TV star “has undergone shocking sex swap surgery.” But the agency emerged on top: A judge dismissed the lawsuit and ordered Simmons’ team to pay the defense’s legal fees.
And that same year, it was revealed that Coleman-Rayner conducted negative research on actress Rose McGowan, who accused disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of rape. The agency claimed that it was unaware at the time of her allegations against the film mogul.