Gladiator film-maker Ridley Scott has been accused of plagiarising an
historical author's research for his forthcoming epic Kingdom of Heaven.
Author James Reston Jr. claims three-times Oscar-nominated Scott ripped off
his book Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third
Crusade, published in 2001.
Scott and studio Twentieth Century Fox say they've never read Reston Jr.'s
book, but the writer believes they may have violated international copyright
law, after he read a copy of Kingdom of Heaven's script.
He is now seeking a place on the film's credits for an alleged loss of
$500,000 in earnings, and five per cent of the box office takings.
A major character in Warriors of God, Balian of Ibelin, is played by star
Orlando Bloom in Scott's film. However, Reston Jr. says no historical book has
paid much attention to this man--except for his own.
The rights to Warriors of God were bought by producer Mike Medavoy, who then
forwarded a copy to Scott with an eye to collaborating on a film based on it,
claims Reston Jr. The author says their offer was declined as Scott was working on a Crusades
project of his own.
Reston Jr. tells British newspaper The Times, "Events, characters, scenes,
descriptions and characters' tensions are strikingly similar. There's a ton of similarities. I've been through a long process of comparison between the book and the script.
"After Scott declined the business offer of a collaboration, he then focused
on the same material."
Although the studio declined to comment on the matter, it's believed
Twentieth Century Fox will state that Scott never read Warriors of God and that
his film is not similar anyway.
Scott's movie, about the Third Crusade in the twelfth century when Christian
Europeans failed to wrestle control of Jerusalem from Muslims, also stars Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons and is due for release in May.
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Angelic but troubled 13-year-old Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) plays with Barbies diligently does homework with her nerdy friends and gets along well enough with her hardworking ex-alcoholic mom Melanie (Holly Hunter). That is until she enters the peer-pressure cooker known as junior high where she witnesses the power wielded by uber-hip Evie Zamora (Nikki Reed also the script's cowriter) leader of a fast snobby clique of girls who sport low-rider jeans rock-and-roll baby tees and tongue piercings. They're everything Tracy isn't but wants to be so she dumps her friends remakes her look and is befriended by bad grrl Evie who introduces her to the joys of pot boys and shoplifting. Evie smarms her way into Tracy's household which is far from stable--Mom's just gotten back together with an ex-junkie boyfriend (Jeremy Sisto) Tracy and her brother hate she can barely make ends meet as a hairdresser and she doesn't keep close enough tabs on what her newly wild child is busy doing all night with trampy Evie. It's not long before Tracy is drinking and drugging giving blowjobs to the boys failing classes and fighting with her family. She's totally out of control while her poor mother is at her wits' end--and perilously close to the edge of the abyss herself.
Quite simply Evan Rachel Wood is fantastic. You wouldn't expect this kind of mature well-thought-out performance from a 15-year-old whose only past leading credit is a sunny family movie about a girl who plays violin (Little Secrets) but she shows uncanny range and an ability to tap into deep-rooted emotions not readily available even to most adult actors. Most 13-year-old girls are dramatic to the nth degree and Tracy is no different--she cries silently while purposely razoring her arms makes snide remarks about her geeky schoolmates and hollers at the top of her lungs about her mother getting in her business before storming out of the house. Arguably the most underused not-twentysomething actress in Hollywood Hunter gives a searing turn as Melanie who barely needs a whisper of a push over sobriety's edge but gets a blindsiding shove from her hostile daughter. What might be the least noticed but particularly excellent performance is given by newcomer Brady Corbet as Tracy's brother--he's not on screen very often but his confusion disgust despair and--through it all--love for his fallen sister registers acutely when he is.
Catherine Hardwicke a set design veteran-turned first-time director has 13-year-old girly girl trinkets down pat paying close attention to authenticity in the details: when Tracy and Evie meet the lens zooms in on the girls' cheesy bangle bracelets their rocker T-shirts their shiny Maybelline lips smacking Bubblicious. A handheld camera is used to tell this tale and with a hard-edged soundtrack enhancing its grainy gritty freneticism Hardwicke creates a desperate close sense of urgency as if something bad is just about to happen (it usually does). But for all Thirteen's terminal velocity there's plenty of room left to explain why Tracy veers so quickly and dramatically from Jekyll to Hyde and for that matter her strange family situation. (Very little is told about Melanie's back story--you barely get that she was an alcoholic let alone information about her divorce her ex-druggie boyfriend or why she raises chickens in the backyard). As so often is the with first-time directors and indie films there is too much focus on the fancy footwork and clever details without supplying the backbone needed to support them--there's lots of room for cutting what was overdone and replacing it with information. But what really precludes Thirteen from being a four-star film is the unbelievably overwrought melodrama of its climax and ending--it's like you suddenly died and went to movie-of-the-week hell.
Finding Nemo, Pixar Animation Studios' little movie about a fish, netted a briny $70.6 million* take at the box office this weekend, posting the best opening ever for an animated film. The feature, distributed by Walt Disney Co., also became Disney and Pixar's fifth No.1 opening and the biggest opening for any Disney film--live or animated.
Finding Nemo bumped Disney and Pixar's previous No. 1 opener Monsters, Inc., which opened in November 2001 to the tune of $62.5 million. The studios' three other collaborations also debuted at the top of the box office, including Toy Story 2, which opened in November 1995 with $57.3 million, followed by A Bug's Life, which premiered with $33.1 million in November 1998. Toy Story, their first project, opened in November 1995 with $ 29.1 million.
Together, Disney and Pixar's computer animated films have generated ticket sales totaling more than $1.7 billion worldwide.
Driven by Finding Nemo and Bruce Almighty, the top 12 films this weekend grossed $165 million--up more than 41 percent from this time last year.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo debuted at the top of the box office this weekend with an ESTIMATED take of $70.6 million at 3,374 theaters. Its $20,925 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this week.
The animated pic revolves around a clownfish in the Great Barrier Reef who is looking for his son, Nemo.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty dropped a notch to No. 2 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $35.6 million (-48%) at 3,492 theaters (+9 theaters; $10,195 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $135.7 million.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated actioner The Italian Job debuted in third place with an ESTIMATED $19.3 million at 2,633 theaters with an impressive $7,330 per theater average.
In the movie, a mastermind thief and his crew pull off what they think is an amazing gold bullion heist--but one of them turns out to be a double-crosser.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def and Edward Norton.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded came in fourth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $15 million (-62%) at 3,453 theaters (-150 theaters; $4,356 per theater). Its cume is approximately $232 million.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Daddy Day Care dropped to No. 5 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-51%) at 3,128 theaters (-344 theaters; $2,174 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.9 million and headed for the $100 million mark.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
Twentieth Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United moved down two spots to sixth place in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-52%) at 2,553 theaters (-534 theaters; $1,984 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $199.2 million.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's R rated horror thriller Wrong Turn premiered in seventh place with an ESTIMATED $5 million in 1,615 theaters with a decent $3,102 per theater average.
The film revolves around a group that gets stranded on a dirt road deep in the wood of West Virginia and faces a horrific fate at the hands of gruesome mountain men.
Directed by Rob Schmidt, it stars Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws dropped three notches to No. 8 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-50%) in 2,652 theaters (unchanged; $3,443 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $14.4 million.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love came in ninth with an ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-61%) in 1,300 theaters (-818 theaters; $1,212 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.1 million.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
Fox Searchlight's PC-13 rated comedy Bend It Like Beckham made it back to the Top 10 this week with an estimated $1 million (-41%) at 491 theaters (-31 theaters; $2,088 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.1 million.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
MGM and United Arists' PG rated drama Together debuted in limited release to an ESTIMATED $66,000 in six theaters with a $11,000 per theater average.
The film revolves around a 13-year-old music prodigy and his father, a chef who has put all of his hopes on his son's success. Together they set out for Beijing so the boy can further his studies.
Directed by Chen Kaige, it stars Tang Yun, Liu Peiqui, Chen Hong and Wang Zhiwen.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $165.4 million, up 5.7 percent from last week when they totaled $156.9 million.
The Top 12 were up a whopping 41.7 percent from last year when they totaled $116.7 million.
Last year, Paramount's PG-13 rated Sum of All Fears premiered at the top of the box office with $31.1 million at 3,183 theaters ($9,795 per theater); Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones came in second in its third week with $21 million at 3,161 theaters ($6,644 per theater); and Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man came in third in its fifth week with $14.3 million at 3,646 theaters ($3,927 per theater).