Coppola loses ‘Contact’

Suit dismissed, complaint too late

An appellate court has dismissed Francis Ford Coppola’s suit against author Carl Sagan and Warner Bros. for a share of the profits on the book and 1997 motion picture “Contact.”

Opinion affirms the trial court ruling. The California Court of Appeal found that Coppola’s claims were barred because they were brought too late. The court noted that it was not until 1994, when the director was looking for leverage in his dispute with the studio over “Pinocchio,” that he thought about suing over “Contact.”

In that separate suit, Coppola sued Warners claiming the studio improperly interfered with his attempt to move “Pinocchio” to Sony. In 1998, a jury awarded Coppola $80 million, of which $60 million was thrown out by the trial court. Both sides have appealed.

A Warner Bros. spokesperson said, “We are very gratified that the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s dismissal of this baseless lawsuit.”

Scott Edelman, who represented Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan Sagan, added, “… It exceeds all bounds of decency that after waiting over 20 years, he chose to sue Sagan’s widow six days after Sagan died.” Said Coppola’s attorney, Robert Chapman: “The court made it clear that there was a contract between the parties and this was Coppola’s idea, but the court felt Coppola brought his claim too late. We disagree on the statute of limitations ruling and we will appeal.”

The “Contact” suit, filed in 1996, alleged that Coppola came up with the idea in 1975 for a television program, called “First Contact,” about Earth’s initial connection with extraterrestrials and had a contract with Sagan to develop a script, but the series never materialized.

In 1985, Sagan published the book “Contact,” and in 1995 Warners made a deal with Sagan to produce the motion picture based on the book.