Filmmaker Lucas sued over Ewoks

CALGARY, Alberta -- Filmmaker George Lucas must appear in civil court, accused of stealing the idea for the endearing Ewok characters featured in 'Return of the Jedi,' the latest film in Lucas's blockbuster 'Star Wars' series.

Calgary writer-producer Dean Preston is suing Lucas, Lucas Films Ltd. and 20th Century Fox Canada Ltd. for general and punitive damages of $128 million, alleging copyright infringement and breach of an implied contract.


Lucas was ordered to appear Thursday in a Canadian Federal Court hearing that began Monday.

Preston's suit alleges that the concept for the bear-like, child-sized tree-dwellers known as Ewoks was stolen from a script called 'Space Pets' that he co-wrote.

Preston testified Tuesday that an unsolicited copy of the 'Space Pets' script was sent to Lucas in 1978 but that it never was returned and that he received no reply.

Lucas's Toronto lawyer, W. Graham Dutton, said the filmmaker denies receiving the script and that Lucas and his staff are prohibited from reading unsolicited work to avoid accusations such as Preston's.

Preston told the court how his heart sank as he drove on a North Hollywood, Calif., freeway in 1982 and found himself driving behind a car with a vanity license plate reading 'EWOK.'


He said he followed the car until it stopped and that two dwarfs got out and told him told him they had worked on a movie for Lucas.

'I felt a funny feeling in my stomach,' Preston said. 'I knew after the conversation that my script had reached Lucas. He had used my name (Ewok) -- even my creation.'

Preston's statement of claim said the 'Space Pets' script included 'a full description of (the Ewoks') nature, characteristics, habitat, clothing, weapons, living arrangements and way of life in general.'

Preston said he developed the name Ewok while playing with phonetics and the phrase 'he walks.'

The Ewoks first appeared in the 1983 movie 'The Return of the Jedi,' the third film in Lucas's space adventure 'Star Wars' series.

The Canadian case comes only a week after humorist Art Buchwald won a $5 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against Paramount Pictures in which he contended that the plot for the hit movie 'Coming to America' was based on his story concept.

The Los Angeles Superior Court judge who decided the case ordered Paramount to pay Buchwald and producer Alain Bernheim $265,000 plus 19 percent of the gross profits from the Eddie Murphy movie.


The studio is appealing the ruling and has balked at paying a portion of the profits, saying the movie -- the third highest-grossing picture of 1988 -- has not made any money.

The judge ruled in favor of Buchwald even though he found no evidence of fraud on the part of the studio.

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