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`Crash' fight moves to the small screen

July 14, 2006|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

The clash over "Crash" rages on.

Less than five months after the cinematic plea for harmony in a racially and emotionally fragmented Los Angeles scored an Oscar for best picture, the film's fractured team of original producers, who had waged open warfare against each other over who should receive credit, have now taken their fight to the small screen.

The battleground this time is "Angela's Eyes," a new Lifetime series that lists "Crash" producer Cathy Schulman and executive producer Tom Nunan as executive producers. The network is heavily promoting the drama as a project from "the producers of the Academy Award-winning movie 'Crash.' "

That description isn't sitting well with several of the other producers of "Crash," including the film's director and co-writer Paul Haggis, Mark R. Harris and co-writer Bobby Moresco, who have joined in a lawsuit against Lifetime demanding that the tagline be removed from billboards, radio ads and other promotional materials.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 18, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 53 words Type of Material: Correction
"Crash" producers: An article in Friday's Calendar about a lawsuit trying to stop promotion of the new Lifetime series "Angela's Eyes" from saying the show is from the producers of "Crash" said the film "Ordinary People" was among the Oscar winners with an abundance of producers. Ronald L. Schwary was its sole producer.

The "Crash" talk may take center stage today at the twice-annual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, when the network and producers present the drama to national television writers. In press materials for the event, Lifetime again describes the series, which premieres Sunday and stars Abigail Spencer as an FBI agent who has the ability to expose liars, as coming "from the Academy Award-winning team who produced 'Crash.' "

"We are asking for this to stop. It's just not correct," said celebrity attorney Richard L. Charnley, who filed the lawsuit in Santa Monica Superior Court on Wednesday seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the network's use of the description. He said the network has gone "out of its way" to leverage Nunan's involvement in "Crash" while also diluting the value of future projects being developed by Haggis, Harris and Moresco.

Haggis, for one, is developing "The Black Donnellys," a midseason drama, for NBC.

"Lifetime is seeking to take advantage of the public's lack of understanding of what a producer is," Charnley added, contending that Nunan had little to do with "Crash." Original "Crash" producers Bob Yari and Don Cheadle are not involved with the suit but have also expressed concerns over the "Angela's Eyes" implication.

Network officials did not immediately respond to the lawsuit. But sources close to the network maintain that the description is accurate since Schulman and Nunan were listed as producers of "Crash."

Citing scheduling conflicts, Schulman is not slated to appear on the "Angela's Eyes" panel, which is expected to include Nunan and two other executive producers, creator Dan McDermott and Scott Shepard.

Schulman and Nunan were unavailable for comment.

The controversy is the latest "Crash"-related fracas, the first of which erupted after the Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved to more closely define who could be credited as a film's producer. The action came after so many producers of "Ordinary People" and "Shakespeare in Love" were allowed to accept recognition at the Oscars ceremony that it looked like a small mob had swarmed the stage.

When "Crash" was shown in theaters, its credits listed six producers -- Schulman, Moresco, Harris, Yari, Haggis and Cheadle, who also co-starred in the film. But under its "truth in credits" initiative, the PGA ultimately determined that only Haggis and Schulman deserved producer credit for "Crash." Even after each producer appealed to the academy, the remaining four were deleted from "Crash's" Oscar credits. And when the film won an upset victory over favorite "Brokeback Mountain," only Haggis and Schulman were allowed to accept the Oscar on stage.

In a related battle, Yari filed a lawsuit in June attempting to block Schulman's producer credit on "The Illusionist," a drama starring Edward Norton as a turn-of-the-century magician, over a contract dispute. Though a judge initially blocked that request, the case is pending.

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