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Actress' Settlement Ends Long Legal Saga

Court: Ex-Clint Eastwood lover Sondra Locke makes deal to write and direct movies on eve of trial with studio.

May 25, 1999|ANN W. O'NEILL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They said she'd never work in this town again, but all is forgiven between Sondra Locke and Warner Bros.

The actress is going back to work for the studio under terms of a legal settlement. The agreement came at the start of a trial on her lawsuit accusing Warner Bros. of harming her career by going along with a sham movie directing deal allegedly engineered by Locke's former lover and co-star, Clint Eastwood.

The last-minute settlement gives Locke a new lease on her career behind the camera, said her attorney, Neil Papiano.

The lawyer acknowledged that at times the three hours of settlement talks Monday more closely resembled a Hollywood pitch session as Locke discussed projects that caught her interest.

Asked how it felt to be back in business with a studio that a few years ago had rejected all her ideas, a beaming Locke quipped, "Hey, that's Hollywood."

The settlement came as jury selection was about to begin in a case that had been dismissed by a Los Angeles judge, then reinstated by a state appeals court.

The lawyers would not discuss the financial terms. But as he left the Burbank courthouse, Papiano said the agreement reaches beyond money considerations to create writing and directing opportunities for Locke, who had been all but blacklisted by the major studios for a decade.

"It involves a business arrangement beneficial to Ms. Locke," Papiano said. "She's going to be paid for her services--we believe handsomely."

Locke said, "This is my best day in a long, long time." She said she felt vindicated as a professional.

"We're happy too," said Warner Bros. attorney Robert Schwartz, who declined to discuss the matter further.

The case was the second installment in Locke's legal fight to regain her professional viability after the acrimonious split with Eastwood, a popular box office draw and Academy Award-winning director.

The lanky, laconic star settled with Locke for an undisclosed sum of money 2 1/2 years ago, just as a jury was about to return a verdict in her favor. Testimony during that trial showed that he had paid $1.5 million under the table to subsidize her development deal with Warner Bros.

Eastwood acknowledged on the witness stand that he never told Locke about his role in subsidizing her development deal, struck as partial settlement of her palimony case against him.

Locke testified at the previous trial that she would never accept such a deal because it gave Eastwood too much control and sent a signal that she wasn't to be taken seriously.

Indeed, she pitched more than 30 ideas to the studio over three years, and none was accepted.

Monday's settlement finally lays to rest a long legal saga that began when Eastwood packed up Locke's belongings and changed the locks to their Brentwood home after the New Year's holiday in 1989.

Discovered in Nashville, Tenn., during a national talent search, Locke won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for her first film, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter."

She was in her 20s when she became romantically involved with Eastwood, and soon was his constant companion and co-star, even sharing billing with Clyde the orangutan in his "Every Which Way" films. The couple split after spending 14 years together.

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