‘Sonny’ lawsuit settled

Carlen retains sole scribe credit

A copyright lawsuit over authorship of the script for “Sonny,” Nicolas Cage’s directorial debut, has been settled.

Plaintiff Robert Dellinger, a longtime TV writer, said he was pleased with the settlement. “I can’t mention the amount, but it was healthy,” he told Daily Variety. “When they looked at the facts, they decided to straighten this thing out.”

Norm Golightly, president of Cage’s production shingle Saturn Films, said “The matter has been resolved between the parties and John Carlen remains the sole writer of ‘Sonny.’ ”

Dellinger sued Intermedia, Gold Circle Films and Saturn, along with Cage and screenwriter Carlen in August, claiming he co-wrote four separate screenplays with Carlen in the mid-1970s that became Carlen’s screenplay for “Sonny,” the story of a young man who is raised in a brothel and becomes a prostitute.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleged copyright infringement and violation of the Lanham Act for failing to identify Dellinger as a co-author. He sought damages of $2 million. Dellinger was represented by Joe Hart of Donaldson & Hart.

Dellinger met Carlen at Terminal Island federal prison in Los Angeles where Dellinger was teaching a creative writing class. Dellinger founded the program when he was serving an earlier sentence for extortion. Carlen, when he took Dellinger’s class, was in prison for bank robbery.

“Sonny,” which premiered at the Deauville Film Festival this summer, will be distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. The limited release is set for Dec. 27.

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