Inside Move: Scribe on crusade over ‘Heaven’ script

Reston fires on Fox over 'Kingdom'

Author James Reston Jr. has leveled explosive charges at 20th Century Fox, helmer Ridley Scott and screenwriter William Monahan, alleging “flagrant copyright violation” and illegal use of material from one of his books for their forthcoming movie “Kingdom of Heaven.”

Reston, author of more than a dozen books and son of the late New York Times scribe Scotty Reston, claims the pic draws heavily from his 2001 tome “Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade.”

A letter sent by Reston’s attorney to Fox and to Scott Free Prods. demanded that all production, publicity and advertisement relating to the film cease, pending a negotiated settlement of grievances.

Otherwise, as the letter stated, “Mr. Reston is contemplating a lawsuit against Fox, Scott Free Prods. and Mr. Monahan.”

Twentieth Century Fox spokeswoman Florence Grace said the studio “believes the claims to be absolutely without merit.”

Reston is adamant that he’s been wronged, claiming the entire second half of the shooting script is based on the first 105 pages of his book. Even the movie’s title is the same as the title of his book’s second chapter.

Reston said he was particularly angry because Scott was offered the book for a movie deal but turned it down.

Phoenix Pictures, led by chairman Mike Medavoy, had optioned Reston’s “Warriors” book and sent it on to Scott as a potential project, but a week later received a note declining to collaborate.

Fox attorneys deny that claim. In a five-page response to the letter of complaint, they said no one involved in making the movie had even read Reston’s book. The studio said it would not be entering into any negotiations with the author.

Reston has yet to file a lawsuit, but his charges are already getting attention. The English-language daily Arab News has picked up the story, and the author said reporters from the New York Times and Washington Post have called him.

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