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Posted: Jan 23 2007, 02:09 AM
Special Projects Director
Group: CCForum ADMIN
Member No.: 1
Joined: 20-February 04
Anschutz, Cussler to kick sand in court
Trial imminent on lawsuit over failed 'Sahara' film
By James Paton, Rocky Mountain News
January 20, 2007
Prolific novelist Clive Cussler, fighting bitterly with Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz over a deal to turn a book into a movie, finds himself starring in a real page-turner with odd plot twists.
The script - a legal file detailing the drama - is way too long.
But it gets high marks for character development.
Anschutz lawyers have devoted hundreds of pages to painting an ugly picture of Cussler, portraying the author as unpleasant, unscrupulous and uncaring.
One passage revealed a "doodle" Cussler drew depicting the posterior of former Paramount Pictures boss Sherry Lansing in close proximity to the lips of Howard Baldwin, the ex-head of Anschutz's movie company.
Other pages claimed the writer of the Dirk Pitt novels spewed derogatory and anti-Semitic remarks, and showed Cussler calling screenwriters "clowns" and mocking their work as "crap."
Attorneys questioned his ethics and even sought to embarrass Cussler for toiling away on a screenplay on Sept. 11, 2001, while everyone else paused to reflect on the tragedy.
The effort to make Cussler look like a lunatic is a naked attempt to deflect attention away from the crux of the quarrel, his lawyers and supporters said.
"I have great compassion for the Anschutz side if they are so afraid of facing the substantive issues in this dispute they have reduced themselves to character assassination," Peter Lampack, Cussler's agent, told the Rocky. "Having represented Clive for close to 40 years now, and being Jewish, I don't recognize the personality traits they charge him with."
Cussler, 75, used to live near Golden and once wrote restaurant reviews for the Lakewood Sentinel. He finally established himself in 1976 with his novel Raise the Titanic!
The author went on to write 19 straight New York Times fiction best- sellers and to sell more than 100 million books.
Anschutz, 67, became one of the country's richest men through ventures in several industries from oil and gas to telecom and several years ago began making wholesome family films. The mogul hit it big with The Chronicles of Narnia and Ray, the movie about the life of Ray Charles, for which Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for best actor, but struck out with Around the World in 80 Days.
Here's how they collided.
Anschutz's Crusader Entertainment agreed to pay Cussler $10 million a book for the rights to the Dirk Pitt series, as well as give him significant creative control over the movie Sahara.
But Cussler alleged in a 2004 lawsuit that the movie company reneged on the deal, failed to grant him the discretion it had promised and ruined his work.
The 2005 action film, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, bombed.
"He was very disappointed because he told a great story and they cut the heart out of it," Cussler's attorney Bert Fields said in telephone interview. "That's why we believe it was a disaster at the box office and why it lost a huge amount of money. It was pleasant enough. It had some funny moments and some nice shots of Africa. But the basic elements in his book were simply eviscerated."
Anschutz's company countered with its own lawsuit, arguing Cussler failed to live up to his end of the bargain and undermined the movie with negative comments he made to the press. When Cussler demanded the screenwriting reins and Crusader declined, he "became vindictive," the lawsuit stated.
A trial is set for the end of January in Los Angeles.
Fields said he doesn't see any prospect of a settlement.
Lampack, fully expecting a trial, said he was leaving New York for California this weekend.
While the tidbits about Cussler surfaced in court documents, some of the potentially embarrassing details about him and others may not reach the jury. Lawyers have asked the judge to exclude pieces of evidence.
No detail was spared in the years-long legal process leading up to the trial.
Cussler in a deposition was interrogated about the Lansing drawing, which he scribbled on a copy of a news release announcing Paramount's agreement to distribute Crusader films.
The "doodle," which he sent on to his agent, depicted Lansing and Baldwin "in a somewhat unflattering manner, suggesting that Mr. Baldwin was 'brown-nosing,' " the documents stated.
Crusader's lawyer, Alan Rader of O'Melveny & Myers, asked Cussler whether it was a "respectful depiction" of Lansing.
"I said it four times," Cussler finally responded, adding it was merely a joke. "No."
The lawyer carried on: "And how about Howard? The intent there was to show him kissing Sherry Lansing's ass, right?"
Cussler replied: "Yes, uh-huh."
The novelist, who has a place in Telluride but now lives in Arizona, also was grilled about the fact he apparently had worked on the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A note he wrote showing he was tending to business while others were grieving was highlighted to try to paint him as callous, Cussler's lawyers said.
"Life goes on," Cussler said in his deposition. "I didn't take the day off."
Karen Baldwin, the producer, former Crusader executive and wife of Howard Baldwin, accused Cussler of making insulting and abusive comments.
Cussler, she said in court papers, resisted casting black actors in positive roles, treated women poorly and uttered anti-Jewish comments, once saying "Do we have to have more Jewish writers?"
When a black actor was suggested to play one role, she said, Cussler "was adamantly opposed and said something to the effect of, 'We have plenty of blacks in this movie - all the slaves are black.' "
In a note to Baldwin, Cussler offered his opinion of a version of the Sahara script, explaining he had his dinner guests one night play various characters and read the dialogue aloud.
"Everyone was aghast at first trying to mouth this crap, but it soon became so ludicrous we were laughing ourselves silly. A fun time was had by all," he wrote in the note contained in the file.
Later, he added, "I can't believe anyone in their right mind would think this tripe is worthy of a $110 million production. . . . This Josh Friedman (a screenwriter) should have his keyboard shoved up his anal canal."
Cussler also bashed the movie in statements to the media and to fans, saying important dramatic scenes in the book had been cut from the cinematic version.
The agent Lampack said Cussler "doesn't have guile, he doesn't disguise his feelings. He tells you what's on his mind. I think it represents frankness and honesty."
The Anschutz lawyers, he said, have gone over the top. The bottom line, Lampack said, is the two sides had a clear contract, and Crusader, now Bristol Bay Productions, violated that pact.
If Cussler had broken the promise and been such a destructive force, why hadn't Crusader taken action initially? he asked.
"The only time you heard anything was after the (Cussler) complaint was filed," he said. "Up to that point they were silent."
It wasn't always an acrimonious relationship. Crusader wanted to create a franchise on par with the James Bond or Indiana Jones series, and Anschutz, also the founder of Qwest, liked that the writer's work could be adapted easily into family friendly fare.
"I thought this series of books - and I discussed this with Cussler - would make good broad-based family entertainment because Mr. Cussler doesn't have profanity or nudity or things like that, which he seemed to be proud of," Anschutz said in a deposition.
The ties between the two sides deteriorated fast.
Fields, the high-profile entertainment lawyer who has represented a number of celebrities including Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, reiterated his point.
"We don't think they really have a defense," he said. "So they have to come up with all these claims that he's cranky and rude and racist, which he's not."
Cussler vs. Anschutz
• At a glance: Author Clive Cussler sued Phil Anschutz's film company, Crusader Entertainment, claiming producers violated a deal that gave him approval rights over the making of the movie Sahara, based on one of his adventure books.
Anschutz countered, arguing that Cussler did not keep his promises.
• Scheduled trial date: Jan. 29
• Place: Los Angeles Superior Court
Posted: Jan 23 2007, 02:25 AM
In a better place...
Group: CCForum admin
Member No.: 246
Joined: 13-March 04
What the heck does that have to do with anything????????? I was at work that day and no one let me leave, even though my dad worked in DC at the time of the attacks and was supposed to be in the Pentagon that day. Geeeeezzzzzz, unbelievable!
Posted: Jan 23 2007, 03:28 AM
Group: CCForum Member
Member No.: 6,744
Joined: 13-June 05
It bombed??? I think that word is a little harsh, don't ya think?
Clive is sooooo not the person their making him out to be! So help me, I'm almost tempted to write a letter!
Posted: Jan 23 2007, 03:07 PM
Group: CCForum Member
Member No.: 114
Joined: 29-February 04
Yeah Liz, I continued my mommying job too that day, and Rich went to work. Does that make us callous? A lot of people went to work regardless of the tragedy. Talk about ludicrous.
Just reading that article makes me crack up. They don't have one claim that is legitimate and are grasping at straws. Even if Clive was everything they are claiming he is, it still doesn't change the facts of what the lawsuit is about - breach of contract. If they get some great jurors, it will only be a matter of wiping the dust (Anschutz' claims) off the glass and then what's true will shine through.
Posted: Jan 24 2007, 07:36 PM
Group: CCForum admin
Member No.: 3,162
Joined: 22-September 04
This country's legal system is already in pretty sad shape. If Clive loses this suit, it will have failed completely.
Posted: Jan 27 2007, 05:21 AM
The Red Baron
Member No.: 7,701
Joined: 10-December 06
Indeed. That movie may not have been a box office success, but it far from bombed. Besides, I've read it's made a killing on DVD.
Posted: Jan 27 2007, 06:11 AM
Member No.: 4,880
Joined: 3-December 04
Worldwide: $119,240,351 Box Office take
DVD Sales: cant find
After tabulating all rentals, both in stores and online, here are the most popular movies with Blockbuster customers in 2005 (with combined widescreen and full-screen numbers):
2. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
3. National Treasure
4. Guess Who
5. Meet The Fockers
19. The 40 Year-Old Virgin
21. The Aviator
23. Hide and Seek
25. Be Cool
Posted: Jan 31 2007, 04:18 PM
Member No.: 7,705
Joined: 14-December 06
Does anyone know if the trial strted this week and if anyone has gained access to the court to view?
Posted: Jan 31 2007, 07:09 PM
Special Projects Director
Group: CCForum ADMIN
Member No.: 1
Joined: 20-February 04
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