French scribe claims ‘Syriana’ is a copy

Clooney, Soderbergh shingle under attack

A French scriptwriter is suing Warner Bros. and Section Eight, George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh’s production shingle, claiming that their film “Syriana” plagiarizes a script she wrote in 2002.

Stephanie Vergniault, who also names “Syriana” scribe and helmer Stephen Gaghan as a defendant in the suit, says the film’s screenplay is stolen from her script “Oversight,” which she registered in 2004 with France’s Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers (SACD) and under American copyright.

The case will be heard Monday in a Paris court, where Vergniault’s lawyer will ask the judge to assign a fraud expert to examine the scripts. She is also asking for e2 million ($2.45 million) in provisional damages. If the expert finds that plagiarism was committed, Vergniault will sue the companies in civil court.

After registering her screenplay, Vergniault sent it on to a “Canadian company close to Warner,” hoping that it would co-produce her film, Vergniault’s lawyer Jasna-Hadley Stark told news agency Agence Française de Presse.

Vergniault said she started her political thriller about CIA involvement in oil companies in the Persian Gulf in 1997.

Oil-industry thriller “Syriana” bowed in Gaul in February, just before Clooney picked up a supporting actor Oscar for his role in the pic.

A Warner Bros. spokesperson said: “While we have not seen a copy of this suit, we believe it is without merit and will defend our position in court.”