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De Laurentiis sues ‘Milk’ scripter, agent

As he had promised, producer Dino De Laurentiis filed suit Monday against writer John Mattson and his agent, Rima Greer, in an attempt to force them to sell him Mattson’s feature script “Milk Money.”

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, charges that Greer–having allegedly entered into a verbal agreement with Dino De Laurentiis Communications to sell it “Money” for $ 1 million–then reneged on the deal and sold the script to Paramount. The reported selling price was $ 1.1 million (Daily Variety, Nov. 17).

Attorneys for DDLC contend that Greer had no right to sell the script elsewhere.

In true Hollywood fashion, court papers show that in a series of phone calls made over four hours on Nov. 12, the deal to sell “Money” was made, broken and then made across town.

The process allegedly began when Mattson, a one-time script reader for DDLC, had said that he would give DDLC first opportunity to bid on his script.

On Nov. 12, at approximately 9:30 a.m., DDLC prexy Stephen Deutsch–upon reading Mattson’s script–called the writer’s agent, Greer. He said DDLC was interested in buying the script, the suit stated.

During that conversation, Deutsch said DDLC wanted to avoid the “normal bidding process” and was instead intent on taking the script off the market.

The suit alleges that Greer said it would cost $ 1 million to buy the script. Less than an hour later, Deutsch called Greer again and offered $ 750,000, which she turned down, court papers said.

Deutsch then upped the offer to $ 1 million. At noon, Greer reportedly called back and accepted DDLC’s offer, the suit states.

It was during that phone conversation that terms of the agreement were finalized, with Mattson receiving $ 1 million, including contingent compensation of 5% of net profits if Mattson was accorded “screenplay by” or “written by” credit. The deal included royalties for any sequels, remakes or future TV spinoffs.

The suit states that DDLC officials, using a previous Writers and Artists contract for “Body of Evidence”– scratching out the names and dates — proceeded to send the paperwork to Greer.

Within the next two hours, De Laurentiis started telling other studio heads that he had acquired the property, the suit says. Yet when the producer personally tried to call Greer at 2 p.m. — just two hours after the verbal agreement was reportedly made — the agent did not accept or return his call.

The suit contends that Greer was busy using DDLC’s $ 1 million offer to leverage a deal with Paramount.

Ironically, this is not the first time Dino De Laurentiis has gone to court over the ramifications of a verbal agreement. Earlier this year, he was embroiled in a fight with Universal Studios over an alleged verbal agreement he made with U’s Tom Pollock to let the studio co-produce a sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.”

In that fight, it was De Laurentiis who contended he made no such verbal agreement. The suit later was settled out of court, with DDL agreeing to give U first negotiation/last refusal right on any “Silence” sequel. This latest suit finds the producer trying to force Mattson and his agent to live up to the reported verbal agreement. Court papers state that since the script is unique, and there is no fixed market value, it would be difficult to ascertain damages. Greer could not be reached for comment.

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