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Jury in 'Sahara' trial could get case on Wednesday

Jury in 'Sahara' trial could get case on Wednesday

Jurors will have to decide whether to believe a best-selling author or a reclusive billionaire in a trial involving dueling lawsuits over the movie "Sahara," an attorney argued Tuesday.
Lawyer Bert Fields wrapped up his closing arguments, saying his client, Clive Cussler, should receive damages because a movie production company broke a deal that gave the novelist approval rights over the "Sahara" screenplay.
Lawyers for the other side will present their closing arguments Wednesday. Superior Court Judge John Shook adjourned the trial for most of Tuesday because of an immigration protest in downtown Los Angeles.
Fields told jurors the trial pits two men against each other: Cussler, the aging author who has written 32 books, and reclusive billionaire Philip Anschutz who owns Crusader Entertainment, the company that produced the 2005 action-adventure film.
"You have two men here who tell different stories," Fields said to jurors. "It's Mr. Anschutz who wants you to enrich him at Mr. Cussler's expense."
Cussler sued Crusader, claiming it reneged on a contract that give him creative control over the film.
Crusader filed a countersuit against Cussler, claiming he was disruptive during the filmmaking process and disparaged the movie before its release.
Both parties seek millions of dollars in damages.
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 (euro49.98 million) in the U.S.
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 (euro58.8 million).
The movie was projected to be the first in a possible franchise starring Cussler's alter ego, Dirk Pitt. Crusader had the rights to two books and a potential option on a third.
Anschutz did not testify during the trial, but portions of a video deposition of Anschutz were played briefly.