Comic character may take to TV despite lawsuit

Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Outlaw Prods. partners Bobby Newmyer and Scott Strauss have teamed in a deal with the Tribune Co. to resurrect Dick Tracy and make him the centerpiece of a TV series.

But whether Tribune really has rights to Dick Tracy is the subject of a lawsuit filed last week by Warren Beatty, who claims he has rights to the comicbook character.

Nonetheless, the producers are proceeding as though they have properly obtained legitimate rights from Tribune. They plan to set a writer and then approach studios with a contempo take on the classic square-jawed cop.

Beatty, represented by attorney Bert Fields, filed a lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court seeking damages against Tribune and a declaration that Beatty owns the Tracy rights (Daily Variety, May 15).

At issue is a complicated rights reversion process contained in a 1985 agreement with Tribune that originally gave Beatty film, television and other rights to Dick Tracy. Tribune last year said it has met the conditions to get back the rights, while Beatty says it has not.

Created in comicstrip form by Chester Gould in 1931 during the heyday of criminals like Al Capone, John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, Tracy battled fictitious villains Big Boy, Flattop, Pruneface and the Brow.

While Beatty’s film stayed in period mode, di Bonaventura and Strauss want to give the TV series a contemporary feel, comparable to what “Smallville” has done with the Superman franchise.

Di Bonaventura and Strauss said if the TV show works, they’ll look to exploit the brand with a feature. Di Bonaventura, who spent years at Warner Bros. to develop a feature version of Superman, said the effort wasn’t hurt by “Smallville” or “Lois & Clark.” Bryan Singer now is directing the feature film.

Project marks the first series effort for Outlaw, which is developing “Hanssen,” a Universal pic scripted and to be directed by Billy Ray about Robert Hanssen, the notorious FBI agent who gave up spy secrets to the Soviet Union. Di Bonaventura is in post-production on the features “Doom,” “Four Brothers” and “Derailed.”

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