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Coppola suit gets personal

But what jury will hear still in question

Things got personal Tuesday in Francis Ford Coppola’s suit against Warner Bros., but it’s a question mark how much of that personal info will ever be heard by the jury.

Out of the presence of the jury, Brian Henson, who was skedded to be a producer on the WB version of “Pinocchio,” said the story had special meaning for him and for Coppola. For Henson, son of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson, it was the story of a boy who loses his father; for Coppola, the story of a father who loses his son.

Those close to the case had said that the death of Coppola’s son was at the heart of his attachment to the project, but that information has been kept from the jury, presumably on grounds of relevance.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Madeleine Flier will rule later on whether or not the jury will ever hear this part of Henson’s testimony.

On the stand Tuesday, Henson testified that he, like Coppola, was to be a producer on the project, which never got made at Warners. Henson went on to work on the 1996 version of “Pinocchio” distributed by New Line, without interference from Warners.

Coppola’s key legal claim is that Warners improperly interfered with his later attempt to make a “Pinocchio” pic at Columbia. Coppola’s attorneys presumably hoped that Henson’s testimony would indicate that WB had a personal vendetta against Coppola.

However, WB attorney J. Larson Jaenicke brought out that Henson’s involvement in the New Line version was not as a producer but simply as the puppet maker.

Earlier, Jaenicke wound up his cross-examination of Coppola, hammering away to determine the amount of creative material owned by Warners that made its way into the script Coppola ultimately sold to Columbia Pictures.

Coppola had estimated B.O. receipts of $200 million if “Pinocchio” had been made. However, Jaenicke told the jury that Coppola filed for bankruptcy in 1992, in part because of the financially disastrous “Gardens of Stone.” Jaenicke also showed that despite Coppola’s professed hatred for Warners, his company submitted a project to the studio in 1997.

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