Freelance journalist Dominic Patten is covering the case for Deadline.
Despite a federal judge’s ruling today removing Warner Bros and writer John Logan as defendants from The Last Samurailawsuit, plaintiffs attorney John Marder said he may not be finished with the studio yet. Representing screenwriters Aaron and Matthew Benay, Marder told Deadline he was “researching whether or not I will appeal.” As for Warner Bros, “We are gratified the District Court has completely vindicated us from this spurious claim.” But the judge also rejected efforts by Warner Bros’ outside counsel Daniel Petrocelli to secure compensation for the studio and Logan. “We are very pleased with the court’s ruling denying Warner Bros and John Logan’s request for terminating and monetary sanction,” Marder said. But Bedford Falls’ Ed Zwick, who directed The Last Samurai, and Marshall Herskowtiz still will have to defend themselves in court.
Judge Philip Gutierrez, in a dense 17-page decision that you can read here, dismissed Bedford Falls counsel’s attempt to use the statute of limitations and grounds of privy to release the company and its executives from the case. The judge called this an “attempt to muddy the waters” and noted how former Bedford Falls production chief Richard Solomon in fact had received the script from the Benays’ literary agent David Philips — even though Solomon passed on the script.
“We’re pleased that the court denied Zwick, Herskovitz, and Bedford’s Motion for Summary Judgment,” Aaron Benay told Deadline. “After 10 years, we’ll finally have our day in court. We’re very confident that a jury will find that our script “The Last Samurai” is in fact their film “The Last Samurai”.
The almost decade-long case involved plaintiffs Aaron and Matthew Benay who say the 2003 Tom Cruise blockbuster was lifted by production company Bedford Falls and Warner Bros from their 1999 script. The judge ruled that the Benays failed “to raise a triable issue of fact regarding privity with Warner Bros” regarding liability from the breach of an implied contract if the studio had been proven to have actually seen the Benay brother’s WGA registered script. The ruling comes just two days after a short hearing on the matter in which the Judge sparred with lawyers from both parties over matters of procedure and the admissibility of an anonymous March 2011 letter lambasting Warner Bros. The judge has put off any decision on whether the letter, which neither side wants allowed, will be admitted as evidence. The case is scheduled to go to trial in late March.