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Posts Tagged ‘Glenn Bunting’

Split Decision in Cussler/Anschutz Trial

After three long, arduous, agonizing months of trial, a verdict has been reached in the Clive Cussler vs. Philip Anschutz battle. And as the LA Times’ Kim Christensen and Glenn Bunting report, both men claimed victory Tuesday, but neither walked away with the huge financial win he’d sought.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that Cussler breached his contract with the producers of the 2005 adventure film “Sahara,” awarding Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment $5 million. But jurors also deemed that Crusader, now called Bristol Bay Productions, should pay Cussler about $8.5 million the author said he was owed for a second novel in his Dirk Pitt series that was never made into a movie. “I’m greatly relieved it’s over,” Cussler, 75, said outside the courtroom Tuesday. “I think I’m happy just to go home and take up my life again. We’ve been here for four months.”

But Anschutz’s camp is equally happy. “We consider it a great victory,” attorney Melvin Putnam said to Variety. He added that the disparity between the findings of misrepresentation and the damages would make him consider an appeal, particularly if the court finds Cussler is owed for the second book. And as for Cussler, he’s out of the film business for good. “There won’t be another Clive Cussler film, at least not during my lifetime,” he said.

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Cussler/Anschutz Trial Draws to Close

And the LA Times’ Glenn Bunting has been there almost every step of the way, cataloging the accusations, arguments and vitriol – much of it out of the official public eye. During his closing arguments, Clive Cussler‘s lawyer Betram Fields drew sharply contrasting portraits of two entertainment titans who have spent millions waging a fierce legal battle over the film “Sahara.” Cussler, said Fields, took his lumps. “You really got to know him,” Fields told the jury of nine women and three men. “He sat here and he took it. Yes, he has a bad memory. Yes, sometimes he struggles for words. I think you will conclude he is not an evil man.” Unlike Philip Anschutz, who never attended the trial and failed to “take the heat of cross-examination.” “Mr. Anschutz has never been here. He never took the stand. [Yet] it is Mr. Anschutz that wants you to enrich him at Mr. Cussler’s expense.”

Anschutz’s lead attorney, Marvin Putnam, is scheduled to deliver his summation today in Los Angeles County Superior Court. “In Mr. Fields’ opening, he claimed Mr. Cussler is a man who means what he says and says what he means,” Putnam said. “Now, at the end of the trial, Mr. Fields had to admit that remotely wasn’t the case. He was left to beg the jury to not do any further damage to his client’s already tattered reputation.”

Cussler Sales Claims Deflate, Balloon-Style

The LA Times’ Glenn Bunting continues his regular coverage of the Clive Cussler/Philip Anschutz lawsuit trial, and yesterday’s tidbits focus extensively on Cussler’s sales figures – he and his camp claimed upwards of 100 million but an extensive audit presented as evidence last week during a Hollywood breach-of-contract trial revealed that the actual number of Cussler books sold through 2000 was at most 42 million, Bunting reports.

On Friday, Cussler offered myriad explanations for his accounting of the “Sahara” numbers. Asked if he pulled the numbers out of thin air, Cussler said, “Pretty much.” He added: “I honestly thought I probably did sell 100 million books. That doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me.” Cussler’s response, made during tense cross-examination testimony (he is scheduled to continue being on the stand today) “illustrates that he is perfectly comfortable lying about the number of books he sold,” said Alan Rader, one of several attorneys from the O’Melveny & Myers firm who represent Anschutz. “He was willing to say whatever it took to get the $10 million.”

Interestingly, Cussler’s real sales figure amount to roughly half of what he’s claimed – a by-product, Cussler testified earlier in a deposition, of an edict handed down by his agent in the late 1990s never to say how many books he sold because the amount was not known. Instead, Cussler said, he was advised to use the phrase “books in print.” So a word to the wise, especially new GalleyCat readers: anytime you see a “books in print” figure, downscale it by half, maybe even more, to get the real story…

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.”

More Cussler/Anschutz Tidbits

The LA Times’ Glenn Bunting continues to report on developments from the Clive Cussler/Philip Anschutz dogfight over the mess that was the 2005 movie SAHARA. Karen Baldwin, executive producer of the movie, testified that a former top executive at Paramount Pictures deliberately misled Cussler by saying the studio “loved” his screenplay when it did not. “They lied to [Cussler] so they didn’t have to have an argument with him,” Baldwin said in a video deposition played in the courtroom.

Baldwin spent a second day on the witness stand facing hostile questioning from Cussler’s attorney. Bertram Fields sought to portray Baldwin as an untrustworthy producer who repeatedly lied during the development phase of the film. She is expected to resume her testimony this morning in the downtown courtroom of Superior Court Judge John P. Shook. Lawyers for Anschutz criticized Fields for attempting to “sully” Baldwin’s reputation as part of an effort to shift the jurors’ attention away from the facts of the case. “He is trying to make Ms. Baldwin the scapegoat for all of the bad actions of Mr. Cussler,” Marvin Putnam, a lawyer on Anschutz’s team from O’Melveny & Myers, said in an interview.

But Fields said Baldwin’s behavior undermined the claim that Cussler was “difficult and disruptive” during the development of SAHARA. “The real disruption to the movie was the breathtaking duplicity of Karen Baldwin telling one person one thing and another person another thing,” Fields said. “I can’t help it if she has no credibility.”

Anschutz/Cussler Jury Take A Field Trip

The LA Times’ Glenn Bunting reports on the newest wrinkle in the civil trial between producer Philip Anschutz and author Clive Cussler that has, so far, seen accusations fly about inflated sales figures, script approvals gone wrong and how much money was made or lost on the 2005 movie SAHARA. So at the urging of Anschutz’s attorneys, Superior Court Judge John P. Shook arranged for the jury of eight women, four men and six alternates to view the adventure movie at an elegant screening room on the Paramount lot. Bert Fields, Cussler’s lawyer, had opposed showing the film outside the courthouse, arguing that the excursion would put “too much emphasis” on the movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. “It’s prejudicial and pandering to the jury.”

Not so, says Alan Rader. “It is important for the jury to decide whether audiences enjoyed this movie or not. The only way to do that is to see it in a real movie theater with a real projection system.” But do they actually have to like or dislike the movie? Fields concedes the latter would help his case but it’s not essential.
“Even if they made a wonderful movie, Clive still gets to approve the changes because he is the decider, to use a current phrase.” So yeah, you read it right – jurors get to decide if the movie sucks or not as a means of moving the trial along. Who’d have thunk it?

Cussler/Anschutz Lawsuit Underway

The LA Times’ Glenn Bunting reports on the latest developments in the fight between author Clive Cussler and producer Philip Anschutz about the movie SAHARA – and whether Cussler inflated his sales figures by a great deal to secure the movie deal,which is what Anschutz alleges in a countersuit. Anschutz’s production company, Crusader Entertainment, would never have made the feature film “Sahara” if it had known that Cussler’s New York agent, Peter Lampack, had “concealed the true facts for several years,” according to the lawsuit. But Cussler’s lawyer, Bert Fields (the same lawyer who is bff with Judith Regan) shot back, “It is a typical Anschutz bullying tactic to try to intimidate a witness on the other side by suing him personally. It is disgusting and despicable.”

Testimony in the lawsuit entered its sixth day, and Cussler hasn’t been faring well under friendly questioning from Fields. When asked the name of an Academy Award-winning screenwriter whose script Cussler approved, the 75-year-old novelist said “David Hart” — combining the names of “Sahara” writers David S. Ward, who won an Oscar for “The Sting,” and James V. Hart. In another instance, Fields asked Cussler whether he got along with director Rob Bowman. “We didn’t,” Cussler responded. “I never met him…. Oh, I’m sorry…I got along with Rob Bowman… I thought you were talking about [screenwriter] Josh Friedman.” Anschutz’s lawyers have delayed cross-examination for another time, and no doubt there will be more fun developments as the trial progresses…

As The Clive Cussler Lawsuit Turns

Way back in December the LA Times reported on the impending lawsuits between author Clive Cussler and film producer Philip Anschutz stemming from a $10 million dollar deal to adapt SAHARA. Cussler hated the movie and sued on the grounds that it violated terms set forth in the contract; Anschutz countersued, and things appeared to get nasty.

Now they have. Today’s report from Glenn Bunting and Josh Getlin says that attorneys for Anschutz allege that author Cussler duped the Denver industrialist into paying $10 million for film rights to the adventure novel SAHARA by flagrantly inflating his book sales to more than 100 million copies. (A review of more than 14,000 pages of royalty reports and accounting records found, according to the lawyers, that the number of Cussler novels sold was closer to 35 million.) “Cussler and his agent had gotten away with these numbers for years,” said Alan Rader, Anschutz’s lawyer. “It was a lie and it doomed the movie.” The claim is “ridiculous,” Cussler said Thursday outside a courtroom at Los Angeles County Superior Court. “They wanted the book. They solicited us.”

The lawsuit brings out one of publishing’s little secrets, that book sales can be inflated and often are. “Hyping sales figures is not productive for the book industry and in the end it hurts everyone,” said James Atlas, a writer and founder of Atlas Books. “It’s harder to get away with this kind of thing now. The information Nielsen BookScan provides may be unwelcome to some, but it’s necessary.” Which is where the disclaimer that Bookscan only tracks between 50-70% of sales comes in, of course. As for the Cussler/Anschutz lawsuit, it’s ongoing.