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Culpepper nabs rights to ‘Moral’

Story of heroic lawyer to Screen Gems

Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper has acquired rights to “On Moral Grounds,” a documentary about a lawyer who took on an insurance giant for stiffing Holocaust survivors. Screen Gems will produce a feature remake based on the doc.

Lisa Stern, a lawyer who teamed with attorney William Shernoff, waged a long-shot battle against the insurance company Generali and came away with a landmark settlement for survivors. The result paved the way for a $5.2 billion fund that German companies established to pay reparations to Holocaust survivors.

While Screen Gems is primarily interested in making a dramatic feature, the deal includes distribution rights to the docu, directed and produced by Robby Kushner. Culpepper is trying to figure out whether to release it theatrically or as part of a DVD for the feature.

After turning Screen Gems into a success story based on modestly budgeted films in action, sci-fi and urban genres, Culpepper used his hits as currency to persuade Sony’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal to let him make a film that is a vast departure from usual Screen Gems fare.

Pic is actually the second Screen Gems project based on a real court case. “The Queen” director Stephen Frears was recently attached to “The Burial,” a Doug Wright-scripted drama about Willie Gary, an attorney who fought a mortuary conglom.

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