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Author Cussler's attorney says contract proves film company reneged on 'Sahara'

Author Cussler's attorney says contract proves film company reneged on 'Sahara'

Jurors should focus on a contract between best-selling author Clive Cussler and a movie production company and not be distracted by "sideshows and smokescreens," the novelist's attorney argued Monday in a trial involving competing lawsuits over the movie "Sahara."
Calling the contract a "terrific guide" for jurors, attorney Bert Fields said during closing arguments that Cussler was given approval rights over the film's screenplay and that his client never would have agreed to make "Sahara," based on his action-adventure book of the same name, without that provision.
"That's what the deal was and that is what the contract says," Fields said.
The case is expected to go to the jury this week.
Cussler sued Crusader Entertainment, a company owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, claiming it reneged on a contract that give him creative control over the 2005 film.
Crusader filed a countersuit against Cussler, claiming he was disruptive during the filmmaking process and disparaged the movie before its release.
Each side blames the other for the dismal box-office returns of "Sahara," which starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz and grossed only $68 million in the U.S. Both parties seek millions of dollars in damages.
The three-month trial has featured testimony from producers, screenwriters, lawyers and Cussler, who all gave reasons why "Sahara" was difficult to make and why it lost money. Crusader's attorneys claim the movie lost more than $80 million.
The movie was projected to be the first in a series starring Cussler's alter ego, Dirk Pitt. Crusader had the rights to two books and a potential option on a third.
While both sides agree a deal was reached that gave Cussler certain rights on "Sahara," they differ on what the contract said.
Crusader's attorneys have said Cussler was granted rights of approval that were to be replaced with a less authoritative consultation role once a director was hired.
But Fields said Monday said the condition was only to be triggered in subsequent films _ none of which have been made _ and did not apply to "Sahara." Cussler was given absolute approval rights for "Sahara" and jurors should not be swayed by testimony _ "sideshows and smokescreens" _ that says otherwise, Fields said.
"Focus on the real issues," Fields told jurors. "Look at what they wrote then and not at what they claim on the witness stand today."
There was little dispute during the trial about the struggles to produce "Sahara." Several screenwriters were brought in to polish the script, some of whom had problems working with Cussler.
Although some versions were approved by Cussler, dozens of changes were made that strayed from the book and contributed to the movie's poor showing, Fields has said.
Crusader's attorneys have claimed Cussler duped their client from the outset, inflating the number of books he sold. Cussler's publisher has said he has sold more than 100 million Dirk Pitt books, but an audit found the number was around 40 million at the time the contract was negotiated in 2000.
Cussler has been called the "Grandmaster of Adventure." He has written 32 books, 19 of which feature Pitt.
Anschutz is one of the richest men in the United States. He co-owns the Los Angeles Kings National Hockey League team and a company that operates Los Angeles' Staples Center.


Updated : 2020-11-30 03:49 GMT+08:00