The Walt Disney Co. has developed a sudden fascination for Massachusetts politics. The reason: a bizarre controversy surrounding “A Civil Action,” a movie starring John Travolta that is now in pre-production and is scheduled to shoot in the state.
With Scott Rudin as producer and Robert Redford as executive producer, this isn’t exactly a low-profile project. Yet a serious threat to the film — one that could postpone production — developed as a result of a new bill passed by the Massachusetts State Senate. The bill would prohibit media representation of true stories without the permission of all the people involved, including the use of their names.
Walt Disney Co. had anted up $750,000 against $1.25 million for the feature film rights to the unpublished book of the same title for Robert Redford’s Wildwood Prods. in March 1995. The book details the story of a lawsuit brought against a company accused of toxic-waste dumping that led to several deaths.
But rights to six of the eight families involved in the suit had been previously acquired by Fred Zollo of Zollo Prods. — who, needless to say, was pleased by the legislative action.
Massachusetts insiders believe the full legislature may reconsider the bill rather than face a gubernatorial veto.