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Clive Cussler Ordered to Pay $5 Million Over 'Sahara' Debacle

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May 16, 2007 | 4:44am EDT

Author Clive Cussler has been ordered to pay $5 million to the production company responsible for the movie adaptation of his book Sahara.

The novelist mounted a legal case in 2004 against production company Crusader Entertainment, claiming the company had breached its contract, which stated Cussler was allowed "absolute approval" over the film's script up until filming began.

However, Crusader later countersued Cussler, accusing him of "duping" them into adapting his book, and ambushing the movie by publicly criticising the project on its 2005 release.

A Los Angeles jury yesterday found Cussler had breached an "implied covenant" of good faith, and falsified his book sales in any dealings with Crusader - but recommended Crusader pay Cussler $8 million he alleged he was owed for a second novel which never made it to the big screen.

Sahara, the Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz-starring movie made $68 million at the box office, and it was claimed in court the film's losses were in excess of $80 million.

During the 14-week long case, lawyers for Crusader argued the company would not have paid the author $10 million to adapt his novel into a movie if it had been aware Cussler had sold only 40 million books, as he had initially told executives his sales figures were closer to 100 million.

Speaking after the decision, Cussler said, "I'm relieved that it's over, and now we can go home."

Although Cussler was found to be in breach of his contract with Crusader, Bert Fields, Cussler's attorney, says, "I think that Cussler is the winner. If the judge upholds what the jury has done, he gets a net gain of $3 million."

However, Marvin Putnam, Crusader's attorney, says, "It's a massive vindication not only for Crusader and all the people who made the film, but also for the industry at large.

The final amount of compensation will be decided by Superior Court Judge John P. Shook later this year.

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