Quaid filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging the producers got him to work cheap by falsely claiming the movie was "a low-budget, art house film, with no prospect of making any money."
"Yet from day one, defendants fully intended that the film would not be made on a low budget, would be given a worldwide release, and would be supported as the studio picture it always was secretly intended to be," the lawsuit says.
Quaid agreed to waive his usual seven-figure fee and share of gross profits in favor of a much smaller payment, the suit claims, although it doesn't say how much he was paid.
The suit alleges intentional and negligent misrepresentation and seeks at least $10 million in damages. It names Focus Features LLC, Del Mar Productions LLC, which was formed by Focus to make the movie, and producers David Linde and James Schamus.
Focus is the specialty movie arm of Universal Pictures. Linde and Schamus were co-presidents of Focus when the film was made. Linde was recently promoted to co-chairman of Universal Pictures.
A call to Focus seeking comment was not immediately returned Friday.
The suit contends that industry guilds define a low-budget film as having a budget of $500,000 to $7 million, but the budget for "Brokeback" was about $15 million.
The average cost of making a studio picture last year was $60 million, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
"Brokeback Mountain," which won Academy Awards for best director, original score and adapted screenplay, has grossed more than $82 million in North America.