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Wallace kin take TNT biopic to task

The family of controversial former Alabama Gov. George Wallace is prepping a lawsuit next week in Montgomery, Ala., that seeks an injunction against the makers of TNT’s planned Wallace biopic to prevent the film from going forward due to what it considers “preposterous” and “fictitious” elements in a draft of the script.

Montgomery attorneys Sim Pinton and Tom Methvin have been retained by the family to work up a cease-and-desist order against the filmmakers and TNT that demands review approval over the untitled, unauthorized docudrama’s final script, which is being penned by Paul Monash and Marshall Frady, and is based on Frady’s book.

Jan. 13 deadline

David Azbell, who oversees the Alabama-based Wallace Foundation that serves as an archive of the 77-year-old Wallace’s political life, said Thursday the lawsuit will be filed before Jan. 13, when principal photography on the pic is scheduled to start.

Azbell had at one time been considering serving as a technical adviser on the film, which is being directed by veteran John Frankenheimer and features Gary Sinise as Wallace.

“Then I saw a draft of the script, and when I was halfway through I had to check the title page again to make sure it wasn’t written by Oliver Stone,” longtime Wallace aide Azbell said.

“It was so preposterous, so manufactured. Basically everything in the script depicting Mr. Wallace’s life after 1972 is totally fictitious.”

In one sequence of the story as presented in the rough draft of the script Azbell read, Wallace, depressed after the 1972 shooting that left him a paraplegic, attempts suicide by rolling his wheelchair off the front porch of the mansion inhabited by then-Alabama Gov. Jim Folsom.

Another scene reportedly features an aide to Wallace as he contemplates stabbing the governor with an ice pick – an aide whom Azbell pointed out is still working for the embattled Southerner, who polled nearly 10 million votes as the American Independent Party presidential candidate in 1968.

Labeled fiction

“The bottom line is that neither of these incidents ever occurred, in any form, at any time,” Azbell said. “It’s just pure, ridiculous fiction, and damaging fiction at that, since this movie is the history everyone will remember.”

Calls to Frankenheimer on Thursday were referred to TNT, where a spokeswoman said of the Wallace project, “The script is still a work in progress, and (the filmmakers) are using a number of sources covering various bases of (Wallace’s) life and career.”

Azbell said that the Wallace family was prepared for a tough biography about the four-term governor, who was an outspoken supporter of segregation. He later changed his rhetoric to denounce segregation and racial inequality.

Azbell said he has appealed directly to Frankenheimer to intercede in getting the purported script inaccuracies deep-sixed and was told by the director on Christmas Eve that he would “look into it.”

“None of the family’s objections are to the historical representation of Mr. Wallace,” Azbell added. “They simply believe that the real, warts-and-all story is dramatic and controversial enough without having to concoct things that never occurred and are, in fact, not only inaccurate but mean-spirited.”

Among the elements of the working script that Azbell holds up as being particularly nasty are graphic depictions of Wallace’s bodily functions and references to physical difficulties stemming from his paralysis.

“The man is bedridden now and in very poor health,” Azbell said, “and when I told him what TNT was planning he got more emotional than I’ve ever seen him in my life. He can’t believe they would make up history like this.”

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