A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling in favor of how the WGA West awarded screenwriter credits on “The Last Samurai.”
In a Dec. 22 decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down Michael Alan Eddy’s appeal of the 2004 decision by U.S. District Court Judge John Walters.
Eddy sued the WGA in 2003 over its refusal to allow him to participate in the credit arbitration for “The Last Samurai.” The action alleged the guild failed to properly represent him as a member and accused WGA staff of intimidating the guild’s elected leaders in order to maintain the status quo on the contentious issue of determining writing credits.
But panel, in a nine-page ruling, indicated that the WGA’s actions hadn’t violated Eddy’s rights and noted that the Guild has some latitude in how it administers the process since it involves both judgment and discretion. It also denied Eddy’s assertion that the grievance had been processed in a “perfunctory” manner.
“However, the WGA’s exhaustive four-month-plus investigation, led by experienced union officials, shows the opposite,” the panel wrote. “Certainly, Eddy is incorrect when he states that the WGA handled his claim ‘so lightly as to suggest an egregious disregard’ for his rights.”
The WGA’s refusal to include Eddy in a credit arbitration hearing led to the assignment of writing credits on “Last Samurai” as submitted by Warner Bros.; screenplay credits went to John Logan, Marshall Herskovitz and director Ed Zwick. Logan also received a “story by” credit.
Eddy has asserted “Last Samurai” is based on Interscope’s “West of the Rising Sun” project, initiated in 1992 with him as the original writer of a script about an American in Japan in the 1870s who winds up fighting with samurai. The suit noted the project was given in 1995 to Vincent Ward before being abandoned, although Ward wound up receiving an executive producer credit on “The Last Samurai.”
The Guild said its investigation found that two of three “expert readers” did not detect similarities between “West of the Rising Sun” and “The Last Samurai.” Eddy asserted that WGA staff had incorrectly told one of the readers that there was no business continuity between the scripts, leading him to change his ruling on the similarities.
But the panel found that the WGA had carried out its internal investigation “in good faith” by demanding that the expert readers limit their analyses to the assigned function of determining similarities between the scripts.