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Kaye’s cautionary tale

A federal judge dismisses Jenkins' claims

It’s getting harder to say no in Hollywood.

Just ask director Tony Kaye, who was sued for $10 million by Larry Jenkins, producer of a script that Kaye declined to direct.

Last week, a federal judge dismissed Jenkins’ claims, tossing the case without a trial.

But at a time when studio execs won’t even open a package containing an unsolicited script for fear of a lawsuit charging copyright infringement, Kaye’s legal odyssey may serve as a cautionary tale.

More than a year ago, Jenkins , who has also appeared as an actor in various pics, approached Kaye and asked him to direct a screenplay, “Victim of Deceit,” via Jenkins’ production shingle, Flashworks Prods. Kaye declined.

But Jenkins persisted in telling financiers and prospective talent that Kaye was attached to direct it. He scheduled meetings Kaye refused to attend, and brought two producers to the set of an indie feature Kaye was directing.

After Kaye told the producers he wasn’t interested, Jenkins asked Kaye to document his opinion of the script.

Kaye obliged. As he tells it, he gave Jenkins a videotape stating emphatically he would not direct the film. The tape, says Kaye, was “seasoned with profanity here and there.”

Jenkins then slapped Kaye with a lawsuit charging that Kaye had made an oral agreement to direct his film, abandoned the project and embarked on a campaign to discredit him.

When the lawsuit hit the press, said Kaye, the negative publicity proved harmful, derailing a deal Kaye was negotiating for $2 million in financing for his own work.

Kaye is a successful commercial director, but he’s had his share of legal trouble.

Two years ago, he lost a $200 million lawsuit against New Line and the DGA over their refusal to remove his name as director of “American History X.” Kaye rejected the traditional Alan Smithee pseudonym, asking that the film be credited instead to Humpty Dumpty.

Kaye’s response to Jenkins was more successful. He filed a countersuit alleging that Jenkins violated his publicity rights, as well as a federal law pertaining to the use of misleading descriptions for goods and services.

Kaye’s lawyer, Gerry Singleton of the Gotham law firm Frankfurt Garbus Kurnit Klein & Selz, called the verdict “a huge victory for Tony.”