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‘Tomorrow’ focus of suit

Scribes sue, allege elements of 1994 spec script used in Bond pic

United Artists’ newest James Bond pic, “Tomorrow Never Dies,” has drawn a $5 million plagiarism lawsuit from two Baltimore-based writers who claim that the 007 film’s writer lifted ideas from an unproduced action spec screenplay they wrote in 1994.

The writing team Jeffrey Howard and Chris Beutler, along with collaborator Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, charged in the lawsuit that ideas from their script “Currency of Fear” found their way into the new Bond pic’s screenplay. The suit, filed Friday in federal district court by Los Angeles attorney Susan Clary, alleges numerous similarities of character, setting and other elements — such as the nature of the villain, who in both scripts is a British media mogul.

Howard and Beutler, however, filed the suit before they had actually seen the movie, said Clary, and based their charges of copyright infringement on the novelization of the film, which they had read.

“Tomorrow Never Dies” screenwriter Bruce Fierstein, who also co-wrote “Goldeneye,” told Daily Variety, “The lawsuit is absurd. I was already working in London on the script after the story had been approved when they submitted their script to New Regency.”

The suit also names as a defendant Fierstein’s wife, Madeline Warren, who was a production executive at New Regency Prods., where the script had been submitted and covered in early 1996.

A New Regency reader’s coverage of the two writers’ script obtained by Daily Variety described the Baltimore duos’ script — which is not a James Bond story — as being about “a dedicated TV journalist who foils a high-level conspiracy by a powerful billionaire who wants to destabilize the transfer of power in order to force Western governments to increase defense spending.”

“Tomorrow Never Dies” pits Bond vs. a megalomaniacal media mogul sparking world conflicts in order to spur ratings for his TV stations and boost readership of his publications.

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