Cussler trial continues

'Sahara' producer Baldwin gives testimony

“He thought I was firing him, but I really didn’t, but he took it that way, so we thought it was better if he was off the picture.”

It could be an advanced seminar in Hollywood doublespeak, but it’s actually testimony from Clive Cussler’s breach of contract suit against Philip Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment over the unsuccessful film “Sahara.” Called as an adverse witness by Cussler’s attorney Bert Fields, producer Karen Baldwin has been on the witness stand all week.

  • As for the ‘was he or wasn’t he fired’ remarks, they refer to screenwriter Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds,” “The Black Dahlia”), one of several writers on the project who quit or was fired. Although Baldwin was shown a memo where she wrote, “I fired him off the picture,” on Thursday she testified, “We had a conversation and I said if I have to choose between you and Clive Cussler, I’ll pick Clive every time. He thought that meant I fired him, but I didn’t, but since he thought he was fired, we decided, ‘OK, you’re off the picture.'”

  • A major issue in the case is whether Cussler was unreasonable in exercising his extensive script approval rights. Cussler contends Baldwin was two-faced, telling him he was well within his rights writing his own revisions, while telling others Cussler was unreasonable. Baldwin contends she was Cussler’s greatest champion. Fields asked Baldwin whether she was being Cussler’s advocate when she told him to his face that his scripts were great and wrote memos saying that he didn’t know what he was doing. “You bet,” Baldwin replied. “Didn’t you tell [Cussler] you loved his scripts,” asked Fields. “Yes,” said Baldwin, “but I always meant it with a qualifier.”

  • And finally, this: Fields showed Baldwin a memo where she had written, “Until Cussler takes a back seat, we’re fucked.” Asked Fields: “Was that you being [Cussler’s] strongest advocate? Replied Baldwin: “Under the circumstances, Yes.”

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