Author Clive Cussler and Philip Anschutz’s film production company are locked in a Hollywood legal battle over the flop "Sahara." Cussler was given wide latitude and creative control over the screenplay for the film, which has lost $105 million.
Cussler and Crusader Entertainment have countersuits going that are expected to go to trial in Los Angeles sometime next summer. Anschutz reportedly paid $10 million per book for the right to the best-selling Dirk Pitt adventure novels, according to the Los Angeles Times, but Cussler had final say over the director and lead actors.
The author initially sued Crusader claiming producers reneged on a contract awarding him "sole and absolute" approval rights.
Anschutz countersued, claiming Cussler sought to blackmail his film company by withholding consent over the script unless Crusader used Cussler’s own screenplay, as well as inflating the number of Pitt books sold and badmouthing the flick before its 2005 release.
"They deceived me right from the beginning. They kept lying to me … and I just got fed up with it," Cussler was quoted by the Times as saying.
"It is the height of arrogance for Cussler to take $10 million to make a movie and then torpedo the franchise," Anschutz lawyer Alan Rader responded, according to the paper.
The legal battle is raising eyebrows for more than just the money and principles involved in a typical Hollywood court tussle.
Cussler’s attorney, celebrity megalawyer Bert Fields, spiced up the debate by claiming that Anschutz’s attorneys at O’Melveny & Myers are attempting to portray Cussler as a "crazed racist and anti-Semite" because they can’t win the case on its merit.
"They want to get these charges in front of a jury," Fields told the Times, "so blacks and Jews will hate him."