Movies - TV
A Legal Battle With Francis Ford Coppola Could Have Been The End Of Contact
During the production of Robert Zemeckis’ “Contact,” Carl Sagan, the author of the 1985 novel that the movie was based on, passed away after a two-year battle with cancer in 1996. His widow and story co-writer, Ann Druyan, had barely laid him to rest when she found herself served with legal papers from Francis Ford Coppola, who was trying to prevent “Contact” from moving forward.
Coppola was suing Sagan over a contract that he had entered into over two decades prior in 1975 with the director. The contract stated that Sagan could write a novel (“Contact”) based on a TV project he was working on with Coppola, but the revenue from the novel needed to be shared with Coppola’s Zoetrope Studio.
Coppola’s lawsuit obviously came at a sensitive time, which brought up questions as to why he had waited so long. The reason was because of a live-action movie of “Pinocchio” that Coppola was supposed to direct for Sony, and the allegations from Warner Bros. were that he had previously entered into a contract to produce the movie under them in 1991.
Vs. Warner Bros.
Coppola filed a lawsuit that blamed Warner Bros. for Sony dropping “Pinocchio” when he had not signed a contract with Warner Bros., and a judge agreed with him and left it to the jury to decide if Warner Bros. had a reason to believe that there was a contract. It was during this time that Coppola filed his lawsuit against “Contact,” which was also under Warner Bros.
In early 1998, a judge ruled that while Sagan had violated parts of his contract, Coppola had filed the lawsuit too late for it to be enforceable. As for the “Pinocchio” lawsuit, Coppola and Fred Fuchs, the then-president of Zoetrope Studio, were awarded $20 million for lost income from the film, plus $60 million for Warner Bros. preventing Sony from producing it.