‘Truman’ suit filed

Playwright files suit against Par, others

NEW YORK (Reuters) — The reigning No. 1 box office movie, “The Truman Show,” became the focus of a multimillion-dollar suit on Tuesday when a New York playwright accused Paramount Pictures of stealing his 1992 off-off-Broadway play.

Mark Dunn, author of a play titled “Frank’s Story,” filed the suit in Manhattan federal court, alleging that Paramount infringed on his copyright. Paramount is a unit of Viacom Inc.

Carl Person, Dunn’s lawyer, told Reuters his client would seek 100% of Paramount’s proceeds from the film, which he estimated could reach $750 million. Gross revenues from the Jim Carrey vehicle have topped $60 million after 10 days in theaters.

Similarities alleged

“The film is great, but the similarities are staggering,” Person said.

The suit lists more than 100 examples of alleged similarity between the play and the movie, including theme, characters and plot. It describes the plot of both works as involving a “large communications corporation taking an abandoned/orphaned child and producing a vastly successful television show (similar to a soap opera) watching the child as he grows up.”

A representative of Paramount could not immediately be reached for comment.

Defendant list

Among the defendants in the case is Scott Rudin, who collaborates with Paramount, Disney and other studios to develop films. “The Truman Show” is credited to “Scott Rudin Prods.” as well as Paramount. Also named in the suit is screenwriter Andrew Niccol.

Other defendants include Sony Theatre Management Corp. and Cineplex Odeon Corp., which have been showing “The Truman Show” at their theaters.

According to the suit, between May and August 1992, Dunn’s play was performed three times a week at an Off Off Broadway theater in Greenwich Village.

The suit alleges that Dunn submitted a copy of his play in June or July 1992 to a Paramount office in New York that looks for properties to film. When Paramount reviewed the submission, it was obligated to keep the material confidential unless it received Dunn’s permission, the suit said.

According to the suit, a summary of the play was available to Rudin and Niccol while they worked on “The Truman Show” from as early as September 1992 to as late as last year. Paramount rejected the play in August 1992, the suit said.