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Variety: Cussler's War Over 'Sahara' Nearly Over

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Clive Cussler sued Crusader Entertainment during the production of Sahara, a film based on what is in my opinion the best book he ever wrote. Cussler has sold a lot of books in his later years, somewhere between 40-100 million depending on who you ask. The power he wields over his book rights is equally as impressive as you'd think, given those sales numbers.

Another one of Cussler's books called Raise the Titanic, one of his first, was made into a film in the 80's and it sunk faster than the ship did. Cussler was very unhappy with how the film deviated from his book, and he blamed that choice for its failure.

Fast forward to recent times and Cussler reluctantly licensed the rights to Sahara to Crusader, this time with the stipulation that he be given sole approval over the script. Almost no one other than directors are allowed that kind of power over a script, especially not writers. Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? The writer has no authority over what he writes when it comes to changes.

An epic battle ensued during the run-up and into production itself when writer and after write was called in to rewrite the script, only to be fired after meeting with disapproval from Cussler. Eventually the films producers, despite having given Cussler script approval in his contract, decided to put together their own version of the script and then make the film without him.

The suit today resulted from Cussler believing that Crusader violated their contract. That suit is just now wrapping up according to Variety.

Crusader's witnesses have hotly disputed Field's reading of the contract, claiming that even on "Sahara," Cussler shifted from approval to consulting rights once the director was hired.

If I may segue for a moment and address this, this is the biggest problem in Hollywood. Directors are given full control over the script, something they have no professional training or qualification of any kind to meddle with, nor any discernible talent. If they had any of those things, they'd be writers, not directors.

Directors burning scripts are the number one reason for films that don't make sense, and you've seen more than enough of those to know that I'm right. The number two reason are studios that wouldn't know a quality script from embroidered toilet paper.

Put simply, Cussler would never have signed onto the deal if ultimate script approval shifted from him to the director before production even began, there wouldn't be any point to it. It's not logical in the least. Why would someone obsessed with the script being faithful to the book agree to total control of the script, only to give it up before filming even begins?

If that truly as the deal he got, then his lawyer is a moron, which seems highly unlikely for someone as successful as Cussler. More likely is that Crusader is lying through their teeth and are about to get nailed to the wall.

Another article in the LA Times took a broad look at the documents submitted to the court that disclosed the films budget -- something of a highly guarded secret due to the way profits are distributed based on production costs.

Studios have been accused for decades of cooking their books to inflate production costs to keep other collaborators from getting a percentage of the films profits. Some of the items listed were extraordinary, such as brides to local government officials (it was not filmed in the US.)

If Cussler wins this suit, and I'm not saying he's a good person that deserves anything at all, it'll be a massive bargaining chips for writers in the future that want creative control over their own work.

I only wish I could get my hands on the testimony transcripts.
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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.