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$40-Million Suit Filed Over 'New Jack City'

June 29, 1991|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aspiring New York actor Kurt Anthony said he was "in shock" after he went to see Wesley Snipes in the movie "New Jack City" last March. So much so, that earlier this month he filed suit against Snipes and the makers of the Harlem-set, anti-drug movie, claiming they had lifted characters and plot points from a script that Anthony had written in 1987.

The complaint, filed recently in New York City, names actor Snipes, film distributor Warner Bros., producers George Jackson and Doug McHenry, the Gersh Agency and Snipes' former agent David Guc of the Gersh Agency. Anthony is asking $40 million in damages.

"At first I felt good that this kind of movie had been made," Anthony said in a phone interview Friday. "But the more I thought about it, I realized the similarities. . . . I had given copies of the script to not only one, but two people in the movie."

Anthony claims in the suit that Snipes saw his script, titled "Innocent Blood," because at the time, Anthony was doing carpentry work for agent Guc. The suit says he delivered the script to Guc, who in turn was able to get the script to his client Snipes. Anthony also claims to have given the script to the agent of actress Michael Michele, who played Snipes' girlfriend in "New Jack City."

Anthony's attorney Carl Person said in a phone interview that the screenwriters of "New Jack City," Barry Michael Cooper and Thomas Lee Wright, are not named in the suit because, it is believed, "the trail starts with Snipes." Person said there are "34 similarities" between his client's script and "New Jack City," including similarities regarding the drug lord character Snipes plays.

Warner Bros. on Friday said it had "no comment" regarding the suit. Agent Guc said he had not received official notice of the suit, but added, "if there was a script, I cannot imagine that it had anything to do with 'New Jack City.' "

Snipes, who is filming "White Men Can't Jump," was not reachable, according to his publicist.

Anthony's attorney said that $20 million of the damages sought are based on his projections of the film's ultimate earnings and Anthony's potential income from it. An additional $20 million sought is for punitive damages.

"New Jack City" has sold nearly $46 million in tickets in the United States, one of the strongest performing black-oriented films in recent release.

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