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Early 'Godfather III' Writers File Suit

December 17, 1990|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of the writers of an early story treatment and screenplay for "The Godfather Part III," which Paramount Pictures purchased in 1985, has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking credit for the movie.

Nick Marino's suit seeks to overturn a Writers Guild of America arbitration ruling that denied him and his partner, Thomas Lee Wright, credit for the film, which will open in 1,800 theaters on Christmas Day. The Writers Guild arbitration committee decided that producer-director Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo should receive full on-screen credit. "Godfather III" is the sequel to their screenplays for "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II."

Marino said that he and Wright, a former Paramount production executive, originally wrote a treatment on speculation during a time when Coppola was not involved with the project. When the studio accepted the treatment, it commissioned Marino and Wright to write a screenplay for which the pair was paid $35,000, with the stipulation that if the movie was made they would receive an additional $100,000.

Marino called the payment "embarrassingly low." The two writers were locked into selling the script only to Paramount, Wright said, since the studio had produced the first two "Godfathers."

Wright, who wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Warner Bros. picture "New Jack City," had no comment when asked about his non-participation in the suit.

Marino's suit names Coppola, Puzo and the East Coast and West Coast branches of the Writers Guild of America. It claims that in conducting its arbitration proceedings, the guild "failed to apply its own arbitration rules," including the rules of anonymity. Under those rules, scripts are submitted to arbitration without the writer's name attached.

A spokeswoman for the guild had no comment on the suit. Puzo and Coppola could not be reached for comment.

In late August, the guild notified Marino and Wright and six other individuals, including Coppola and Puzo, that it would conduct an arbitration to determine the screenwriting credit. Guild rules provide for automatic arbitration when a production executive is designated for a writer's credit, and director Coppola had been designated by Paramount to receive co-writing credit.

In September, Marino and Wright notified the guild that they wanted screenplay credit, contending that the final script of the movie was based on their work. In November, the arbitration committee ruled in favor of Coppola and Puzo.

Marino and Wright claim that they sought anonymity during the arbitration.

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