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Cussler Ripped on Stand by Screenwriter

The LA Times’ Glenn Bunting continues to report the juiciest news from the longrunning, torturous saga that is the Clive Cussler/Philip Anschutz civil trial. Today’s tidbit? That screenwriter Robert McKee (who had his moment in the sun in ADAPTATION berating Nicolas Cage‘s character for a crappy script) erupted on the stand while talking about Cussler’s screenwriting attempts. “I mean, I cannot overstate how terrible the writing is,” McKee testified. “It is flawed in every way writing can be flawed.”

Anschutz’s attorneys hired McKee, who testified as an expert witness, to evaluate a draft of the SAHARA screenplay that was written by Cussler. McKee said he did not accept the consulting work with the intent of assailing a fellow writer. “To find myself in a situation where I have to take a side against a writer is very upsetting to me,” he said. But McKee was well-compensated. At a rate of $500 per hour, he has received more than $60,000 as one of Anschutz’s experts, McKee said.

He also spent three days on the stand making very clear what he thought of Cussler’s work in general. Asked his appraisal of Cussler’s bestselling book, McKee said, “The writing of the novel is bad, no question about it.” When told that “Sahara,” the book, was a huge commercial success, McKee replied, “Bad writing often makes a lot of money.” Bertram Fields, Cussler’s attorney, said McKee’s verbal attacks were “totally irrelevant” to the case. “He is a very good actor and he uses colorful language,” Fields said. “I think he was all wet.”

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