Despatches
 
 
The Puppet Master
Francis Ford Coppola may be $80m richer thanks to astonishing recent events in Hollywood – and it’s for a film he never made. The Rainmaker director became the subject of his own courtroom drama when he sued Warner Brothers over an aborted live-action version of Pinocchio (first suggested in 1991).

If Coppola had received a deal similar to the one he at Columbia for Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992, he would have expected to earn around $20m. When Dracula became a bigger hit than expected, Coppola said Columbia offered a more lucrative deal than Warners to make Pinocchio. Warners, who had starting paying small sums to Coppola for early work on the movie, believed he was going ‘behind their backs’, despite the film-maker’s claims that it was a different Pinocchio script he’d been writing for Columbia. By 1994, Coppola’s hopes had faded.
In the ensuing trial in July this year, Warners claimed that while no deal was finalized on paper, they had a verbal agreement for Coppola to make Pinocchio. Coppola’s lawyers alleged that because there was no signed contract, an ‘unlawful’ claim of ownership was used to make the maverick director ‘toe the studio line’. Nevertheless, a jury ultimately found in favour of Coppola and awarded him $20m in compensatory damages. A few days later, punitive damages of $60m were added to the award.
The result sent shockwaves through Hollywood as this is the highest figure awarded in a civil case against a US film studio. It’s a Hollywood custom that ‘high level’ talent such as big-name directors, writers and actors, often enter into film deals on a verbal agreement alone. Warners naturally expressed its “grave disappointment”, and plans to appeal the verdict, exclaiming that the $60m award in particular was “simply ludicrous”. (By Matthew Hastings)

More Jurassic larks
What a surprise! Dinosaurs will rule the Earth again in Summer 2000 when the second sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park will be released by Universal. Spielberg will not direct this time, like he did The Lost World, but he will produce and collaborate with author Michael Crichton over the story line. Spielberg said, “We have had an opportunity to build on the experience and excitement that audiences have come to expect from us. Michael Crichton knows how to surprise and entertain audiences with themes and stories that are smart and original.”

Leo the Last
Leonardo DiCaprio stories are getting as outlandish as the catering budget on Titanic. But while no one is sure if Leo will indeed play the American Psycho in the film version of Brett Easton Ellis’s controversial best-seller (let’s be honest, Christian Bale would be the better choice), he’s apparently been offered $22 million by Italian producer Aurelio De Laurentiis to star in a third remake of Ernest Hemmingway’s classic A Farewell to Arms. He’s also been mentioned in conjunction with Bombshell: The Secret Story of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy. Incidentally, American Psycho may now be directed by Oliver Stone.

Iron Cruise
Forget Superman and the caped crusader. Tom Cruise is heading for comic-book-movie land by playing the cult Marvel character Iron Man. The Eyes Wide Shut star will produce and star in the film as billionaire mustachioed industrialist Tony Stark who, forced to live in a hi-tech metal suit to survive, leads a double life as a crime-fighter. Tom will also reprise his Ethan Hunt role in the Mission: Impossible sequel directed by Hong Kong action maestro John Woo.

Rambo's Back
Sylvester Stallone hasn’t said he’d do it yet, but Dimension Films (the genre off-shoot of Miramax) have hired JD Zeik to write Rambo 4. Zeik, who scripted the upcoming Robert De Niro/Jean Reno starrer Ronin, is working closely with Rambo creator and First Blood author David Morell whom Dimension have retained as the project consultant.

 
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