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Names take aim at Pellicano article

This article was updated at 11:25 p.m.

Brad Grey and a collection of stars with ties to the current Paramount topper are fighting back against Vanity Fair.

Grey and several former clients, including Brad Pitt and Adam Sandler, as well as a rep for the late Chris Farley, have come forward with claims that the mag’s story on the Anthony Pellicano scandal is inaccurate.

In contradiction to the story, Pitt, Sandler and the Farley rep deny ever hiring the P.I. In addition, HBO has denied that Grey once pushed a TV show based on Pellicano as a replacement for “The Sopranos,” as the mag also reported.

The Vanity Fair story was published on its Web site on Wednesday and will appear in the June issue, due on newsstands May 3.

In a Par statement released late on Thursday, the studio said, “Specific allegations and statements made by unnamed sources about Brad Grey in Vanity Fair’s piece on Anthony Pellicano are total fabrications.”

Grey has previously acknowledged that his attorney, Bert Fields, used Pellicano during two of Grey’s lawsuits but denies any knowledge of illegal activities.

Vanity Fair included a quote from a Grey spokesman saying Grey never recommended that his clients hire the P.I.

Citing a former exec at Brillstein-Grey, where Grey was a partner before he took the Par job, the mag reports that “Grey used Pellicano for work on behalf of any number of his clients including Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and the late Chris Farley.”

Cindy Guagenti, who reps Pitt and Sandler, said in a statement, “Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and the late Chris Farley have never once engaged the services of Anthony Pellicano, either directly or through a representative.”

Guagenti added that none of the three thesps were contacted by the magazine before the story was published. Neither John Connolly, one of the writers of the piece, nor a rep for Vanity Fair immediately returned calls requesting comment.

Brillstein-Grey’s Mark Gurvitz, who manages the Farley estate, told Daily Variety, “He’s never once been involved with Anthony Pellicano in any way whatsoever.”

Alleging a separate inaccuracy in the magazine story, HBO released a statement denying the magazine’s report, also attributed to an unnamed former Brillstein-Grey exec, that Grey had considered replacing “The Sopranos” with a drama based on Pellicano’s life when the mob skein’s star, James Gandolfini, once walked off the set.

HBO confirmed that there once was a pilot idea based on Pellicano’s life but said it was “two years apart” from the dispute with Gandolfini. HBO suspended production on “The Sopranos” show in March 2003 during a contract dispute with the star. The cabler did not say whether the Pellicano project was two years before or after the star’s walkout.

A rep for HBO said in a statement, “The allegation made in Vanity Fair that Brad Grey considered replacing ‘Sopranos’ with a show called “The Pellicanos’ is absurd. Writer John Connolly specifically asked and was told by Grey’s representatives that a pilot idea about Anthony Pellicano arriving at HBO and the James Gandolfini contract negotiations were at least two years apart.”

Separately, in the latest civil action spurred by the Pellicano investigation, manager and producer Aaron Russo and three of his family members have filed claims against the city of Beverly Hills for not preventing a police officer from gathering personal information from law enforcement databases.

The officer, Craig Stevens, pleaded guilty in January to charges of taking money from Pellicano to do searches on the private eye’s targets. He has resigned from the Beverly Hills Police Dept.

In the claims filed by attorney Neville Johnson, who represents 11 of the complainants in the indictment accusing Pellicano and six others of conspiring to illegally gather information, Beverly Hills is accused of failing to “train, discipline, investigate and supervise officer Stevens.” They ask for punitive damages for violating the Russos’ privacy and civil rights.

Russo, who once managed Bette Midler and was a producer of “Trading Places,” was investigated by Pellicano in 2001 during a lawsuit between Russo and financier Adam Sender over a failed movie project.

In court papers filed in 2004, Russo accused Pellicano of gleaning info for Sender by wiretapping his phone. Prosecutors said in their indictment of Pellicano that Stevens checked police computers for criminal histories and motor vehicle records on Russo and his family members.

A rep for the Beverly Hills Police Dept. was not available for comment.

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