Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Scribe Passionate about Suing Gibson

That Passion of the Christ controversy just won't quit.
The man who cowrote the screenplay for the 2004 blockbuster is suing Mel Gibson and the actor's Icon Productions, alleging he was told the film would be a low-budget affair and was therefore deceived into penning the script for peanuts.
Benedict Fitzgerald agreed to a "relatively small salary," a $75,000 production bonus, another $75,000 if Gibson's vision broke even at the box office and five percent of the revenues, according to court documents filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Gibson engaged in a "chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit," telling Fitzgerald the film would cost between $4 million and $7 million to make and that he wouldn't be taking any of the proceeds, the suit contends. Instead, the Braveheart star said he would distribute the returns among the cast and crew.
The Passion of the Christ's budget ultimately totaled around $30 million and, thanks to some brilliant marketing on Gibson's part, ended up grossing more than $370 million domestically, per tracker Box Office Mojo.
Fitzgerald, who's alleging breach of contract, fraud and unfair business practices, contends in his 21-page complaint that he "accepted a salary substantially less than what he would have taken had he known the true budget for the film."
He is asking for unspecified damages.
Not that he was ever in it for the money, though.

"Because of his background, because of his deep and personal religious convictions (which he believed to be shared by Gibson) and because of his passion for the project, Ben forewent pursuing other scripts and exclusively devoted the following years of his life to The Passion without requesting or receiving any additional compensation," the lawsuit states.
"Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben's fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs."
George R. Hedges, an attorney for Icon, told People the suit is "utterly baseless and the charges are utterly baseless." Fitzgerald was "handsomely compensated—a very significant amount of money for any writer on any project," he said.
Icon Productions' chief operating officer, Vicki Christianson, Marquis Films and Airborne Productions are also named as defendants.

According to his page on the Internet Movie Database, Fitzgerald, who shared his Passion screenwriting credit with Gibson, also worked on several TV movies in the 1990s, including an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, starring John Malkovich and Tim Roth, and a two-part take on Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, with Anthony Edwards and Eric Roberts.


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