While Paramount Pictures has given the greenlight to “Evening Star,” the sequel to “Terms of Endearment,” and the studio has landed director Frank Oz to helm the pic, the production may be affected by a lawsuit filed by former Par exec David Kirkpatrick, whose indie banner developed the project.

Kirkpatrick believes he is still part of the project, but the studio claims the producers of record are Polly Platt and Oz. Accordingto a letter Par sent to Kirkpatrick, he was being removed from the film and was also being detached from “The Brady Bunch” movie.

According to Kirkpatrick, both projects were advanced using money from his discretionary fund, and he said he intends to be a participant in the productions.

But it is the inclusion of Oz thatsignals a fast tracking of the project, which is slated for a Christmas release. Oz last helmed “Housesitter,” the Steve Martin/Goldie Hawn pic for Universal.

The “Terms” sequel also has Shirley MacLaine attached to reprise her role as Aurora Greenway and the producers are currently looking to round out the cast.

Character conversations

Conversations have been held with Juliette Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow to play Melanie, the 21-year-old granddaughter of the MacLaine character. No deals have been struck. The script also contains a small role for Jack Nicholson to reprise his Garrett Breedlove character.

Kirkpatrick, who said he was “practically forced to take (on the pic) because no one wanted it,” is currently suing the studio as a result of his unceremonious ouster from Par’s lot in November. Kirkpatrick alleged he was told by the studio he could produce the handful of films he was developing, but he claims the studio later reneged. The lawsuit provided a glimpse into the world of perks given to high-ranking studio execs, cataloging stock options, house loans and bonuses.

The studio says the lawsuit is “riddled with distortions” and is “totally without merit.”

Oz, though pursued by several studios, instead chose to ink last August with Limelight Entertainment, a top TV commercial and musicvideo production house that has been increasing its ranks with directors capable of moving easily between commercials and films. He remains a free agent on the film side.

Legal pursuits

But as a result of Kirkpatrick’s exclusion from “Evening Star,” another round of legal salvos are expected.

“It is our position that David is and has been the producer of ‘Evening Star, ‘ ” said Pierce O’Donnell, Kirkpatrick’s attorney.

The lawsuit traces the troubles to clashes between Kirkpatrick and Paramount president Stanley Jaffe. The two men first clashed on the production of “School Ties” when Kirkpatrick was chief of the studio’s motion picture group and Jaffe’s indie company produced the film. Jaffe was later hired as Par’s president and CEO — Kirkpatrick’s boss — and the animosity between the execs was the reason Jaffe never greenlit any projects for Kirkpatrick’s indie banner, the exec claims.

O’Donnell recently became Kirkpatrick’s counsel following the death of Howard King, his first attorney.

Unwanted project

“‘Evening Star’ came out of my discretionary fund,” said Kirkpatrick. “It was a project that nobody wanted to develop. As soon as I’m gone, (the studio) decides they want to go ahead and make it. It is my intention to be tied to the project.”

Ironically, Kirkpatrick said he brought in Platt, who is part of the Gracie Films triumverate that includes Cynthia Hargrave and James L. Brooks.

Brooks, who produced, directed and scripted the original “Terms of Endearment ,” which won an Academy Award for best picture in 1983, decided not to participate in the sequel, feeling it was ground he already covered.

“Star” is one of a handful of films recently greenlit by the studio. “Drop Zone,” starring Wesley Snipes, has a March start date, with “Star Trek the Next Generation: The Movie” and “I.Q.,” the Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan pic, earning late March starts, according to John Goldwyn, president of production for Par’s motion picture group.

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