Mass. governor threatens to veto ‘Civil’ legislation

BOSTON — Massachusetts Acting Governor Paul Cellucci issued a veto threat against proposed legislation that would shut down Disney’s film “A Civil Action,” set to shoot in the state this fall.

Based on the bestselling nonfiction book, the film recounts the story of the Woburn, Mass., lawsuit against a company accused of dumping toxic waste, leading to the illness and death of several people. Film producer Nick Paleologos, a former state senator, objected to the film, since it’s based on the story of the attorney representing the plaintiffs (to be played by John Travolta). Paleologos holds the rights to the story from the perspective of the families involved, but not the attorney.

The Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill that would prohibit media representations of true stories without the permission of all the people involved, including the use of their names. Such a bill, believed to be a first in the U.S., would effectively prevent the Disney film from being made without Paleologos’ cooperation. Paleologos argued that he was simply looking out for the interests of the families to see that their stories were not used without compensation.

Cellucci said that he will definitely veto the bill if it reaches his desk, although there is some question as to whether the state House would then act. Alex Sutton, director of communications for the department of Economic Development, which oversees the state film office, said, “We see this bill as a disincentive for film companies to do business in Massachusetts.”

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