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SHORT TAKES : Paramount Victimized Buchwald on 'America' Script, Judge Told

December 15, 1989| From Times Staff and Wire Service Reports

An attorney for columnist Art Buchwald denounced Paramount Pictures today as an unscrupulous movie studio that victimized Buchwald by stealing his script idea and turning it into the hit movie "Coming to America."

"We seek substantial punitive damages to teach Paramount and others like it a lesson not to treat creative people like this ever again," attorney Pierce O'Donnell said.

In his opening statement, the lawyer told Superior Court Judge Harvey Schneider, who will hear the case without a jury, that he will prove that Paramount took Buchwald's script idea entitled "King For A Day" and transformed it into the 1988 Eddie Murphy comedy, which grossed more than $150 million. The suit seeks $5 million in damages.

Murphy, the attorney said, has already netted $22 million from the film and Paramount collected more than $50 million in distribution fees. But, he said, the studio refused to pay Buchwald and producer Alain Bernheim $250,000 plus a small share of profits under their original contract.

An attorney for Paramount, Robert Draper, ridiculed the idea that Buchwald's script idea was plagiarized. Draper acknowledged that during the year in which the case was pending, Murphy--who is not a party in the suit--admitted that he had seen Buchwald's proposal. But Murphy said he could not tell whether it influenced him subconsciously in writing his own script for "Coming to America."

Personalities such as Buchwald, Murphy, director John Landis and Murphy's co-star Arsenio Hall are expected to testify in the two-week trial.

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