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New Line hit by Outlaw suit

Claiming that it spent “countless hours” developing “Don Juan De Marco and the Centerfold” for a studio, Outlaw Prods. filed a $ 710,000 suit against New Line Cinema Wednesday charging the indie with stealing its film.

In the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Outlaw charged New Line with breaching a contract that the small production house had in place with scripter/helmer Jeremy Leven.

Outlaw attorney Michael Kump of the law firm Kinsella, Boesch, Fujikawa & Towle called the issue “black and white.”

“This is a simple case,” he said. “There’s a written contract between Leven and Outlaw which attaches Outlaw as the sole producer.”

Kump said the suit only asks for $ 710,000 in compensatory damages, but a jury could impose punitive damages that could run in the millions.

New Line officials could not be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Leven agreed that if “Don Juan” were made into a feature pic, Outlaw would administer the project as the sole producer.

The suit also said New Line agreed to this codicil, creating several budgets for the pic that included a line item for Outlaw.

But New Line recently announced the project as its own, attaching Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp as talent. It also claimed Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Prods. would produce for a reported $ 1 million.

Outlaw included in the suit a slander action against New Line production prexy Michael De Luca for his comments in Daily Variety that if New Line was going to use a first-time director, “it would be great to back him up with a really strong producer” (Daily Variety, Feb. 18).

Outlaw argued in the suit that it had helped with numerous drafts of the script, the last of which Outlaw submitted along with skeds and budgets to more than 25 studios for financing. The small indie claimed it also originally wooed Johnny Depp to star in the production, before New Line claimed it had signed him.

The contract with Leven was made orally on Feb. 1, 1992, and put into writing in July 1992. It called for Outlaw to be paid twice the cash compensation given Leven as writer/director of the film, plus a portion of net profits and credit as sole producer.

In return, Outlaw agreed to seek financing with first-time helmer Leven attached as pay-or-play director. Since Leven is to be paid at least $ 350,000 under his New Line agreement, Outlaw argues it should get at least $ 700,000.

Under Robert Newmyer and Jeff Silver, Outlaw has developed a reputation for discovering first-time helmers. Among its more notable credits is Steven Soderbergh’s “sex, lies and videotape.”

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