Fox in $100 million copyright lawsuit

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The recent Sean Connery movie "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," already a critical and commercial disappointment for Twentieth Century Fox, is now the subject of a $100 million copyright infringement lawsuit against the studio.

Fox calls the suit "absurd nonsense."


Veteran movie producer Martin Poll ("The Lion in Winter," "Love and Death") and screenwriter Larry Cohen ("Phone Booth," "Best Seller") filed the suit in Los Angeles last week, accusing Fox and its affiliated companies -- Fox Entertainment Group and Fox Filmed Entertainment -- of stealing their idea for the movie.

"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" featured Connery as the fictional hero Alan Quartermain, who is recruited to help a band of other literary characters save the civilized world from a plot devised by Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, James Moriarty. It grossed just over $66 million at the U.S. box office this summer.

According to the lawsuit, Poll brought Fox executives a screenplay by Cohen in the early '90s, in which Quartermain and the other literary figures battle evil forces led by Moriarty. Poll told United Press International that the screenplay for "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" bears such a strong resemblance to Cohen's screenplay that there is no question of copyright infringement.


But Flo Grace, a spokeswoman for Fox, told UPI the claim is without merit.

"This is absurd nonsense," said Grace. "Our movie is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore."

The official credits on "LXG" indicate that James Dale Robinson wrote the screenplay, based on the graphic novel by Moore and Kevin O'Neill. Poll accused Fox of commissioning the graphic novel as part of an elaborate scheme to cover its tracks.

"According to Variety," Poll said, "Fox hired a writer to do 'LXG' many, many months prior to the graphic novel being contracted."

According to the suit, Fox commissioned the screenplay for "LXG" in 1998, but the graphic novel was not "published or finished" until 1999.

Poll said the "LXG" screenplay actually contains similarities to Cohen's "Cast of Characters" screenplay that it does not share with the graphic novel.

According to the lawsuit, Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman -- who was president of production when the studio began to develop "LXG" -- had already received the "Cast of Characters" screenplay when the studio moved forward with "LXG." The plaintiffs accused Rothman of going forward with the project even though he knew it would "quickly and properly have been seen as plagiarism."


The suit alleges that Rothman "or others at Fox under his direction" provided Moore with ideas from "Cast of Characters" for use in writing the graphic novel.

Poll said he spent a considerable sum of money trying to develop and market "Cast of Characters," including signing John Landis ("Animal House," "Trading Places") to direct it.

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