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Wig movie lawsuit now alleges fraud

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

The lawsuit alleging that the hairpiece comedy set in Belfast, "Everlasting Piece," was suppressed by DreamWorks for pro-British reasons, has been refiled in Los Angeles with an amended complaint charging the studio with fraud.

Lawyers for the movie’s producer and plaintiff, Jerome O’Connor, alleged last week that DreamWorks "obtained any rights it purports to have in relation to the picture by means of fraud," according to court papers.

"We added this fraud claim, that DreamWorks obtained the rights to the movie by making misrepresentations to both Jerome O’Connor and [director] Barry Levinson," said Eamon Dornan, an attorney acting for O’Connor.

"They informed Jerome O’Connor that Barry Levinson was keen to direct the film with DreamWorks, and that he, Levinson, was tied in with them at that stage. He was not," said Dornan. "Meanwhile, DreamWorks had convinced Levinson that they had secured the rights to the movie."

An interview with Levinson printed in the London Guardian newspaper, appears to back up this allegation. In the interview, Levinson is quoted saying, "I believed that they [Dreamworks] had a contract and owned the script, which they did not. We were already in production when I discovered there was no contract."

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The amended suit now demands reparations of $100 million on top of the original $10 million for the alleged suppression.

The original suit was filed alleging that Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks never gave the movie a chance to succeed, and instead suppressed it because certain scenes could be construed as being offensive to the RUC and the British government. Its release cut from 800 cinemas to eight nationwide, the movie depicted a Protestant and a Catholic locked in a hairpiece sales war, and draws humor from some of the more macabre aspects of Northern Irish sectarianism. Spielberg’s alleged involvement in its suppression stemmed from a knighthood that he received from the queen in January 2001.

In March, Levinson gave a talk about the movie after a private showing in Soho. On that occasion, he pointed to what he saw as DreamWorks’ incompetence, inability to understand the nature of the comedy, and, ultimately, the Holywood studio universe that militates against small, independent films whose appeal lies outside of mainstream American tastes.

"They would have preferred it to be just about wig salesmen in a contest," Levinson told his audience. "I think [DreamWorks] decided, ‘Let’s not try to sell this as an Irish movie because the concepts of Protestants and Catholics are too scary.’ They bungled the distribution."

DreamWorks has declined to comment on either the original or amended suits, saying only that the allegations are "ludicrous." They now have 20 days to respond to the amended suit. One source has suggested that DreamWorks may successfully move to have the suit dismissed. Regardless of the lawsuit’s fate, the controversy and allegations are set to continue.

"{DreamWorks] also said that if we didn’t make the movie with them, they’d make sure we didn’t make it anywhere else," O’Connor said. "You can’t threaten people like that. They should never have been involved in the first place."

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