FILM / Rushes

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It's common to hear of small-time writers accusing famous directors of using their ideas, rarer for the tables to be turned and for a big-name director to be the one pointing the finger. Over the last few weeks, however, Rain Man and Bugsy director Barry Levinson has been involved in a very public squabble with a little-known television writer.

Levinson accused John Wells, the author of the pilot script for Warner Brothers' detective series Polish Hill, of borrowing from Homicide, the police-procedural book on which Levinson is planning to base a mini-series. 'Everyone will try to hush it up,' he told reporters. 'But at some point we've got to say this has got to stop. I find it personally objectionable.'

Homicide's author, David Simon, produced an 11-page memo detailing the similarities between the two stories. Warner Brothers denied the accusations, but agreed to changes in the script, saying it was 'willing to make minor changes in a goodwill effort to stop these endless, scurrilous and unfounded accusations'.

This, however, was not quite an end to the matter. Warner Brothers' grudging tone so angered Simon that he again called in the press, telling the New York Times, 'I don't believe so-called scurrilous accusations and minor problems could make a major studio re-shoot portions of a pilot . . .'.

For his part, Levinson declared himself 'appalled' at Warners' response.

Francis Coppola filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, for the second time in three years. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the director blamed his continuing financial problems on his 1982 box-office flop One From The Heart, an ambitious love story which recreated the streets of Las Vegas on a studio set. The film cost dollars 27 million to make but generated only dollars 4 million in box-office revenue.

Coppola's assets were listed at dollars 52m, against liabilities of dollars 98m. The filing listed Los Angeles-based Hot Weather Films-Ponyboy as the major creditor at dollars 71m. Hot Weather is the outside company that produced Coppola's The Outsiders and Rumblefish.

'This . . . closes the book on a complicated, decade-long series of financial and legal problems,' Coppola said. 'It will finally let us resolve all remaining debts and obligations stemming from this film (One From The Heart) and enable me to focus my attention on current projects.'

The London Film Workshop has announced dates for the second in its series of weekend workshops on low-budget film-making. The first, entitled Producing Ultra Low Budget Feature Films, attracted over 100 would-be film-makers, three of whom have now raised the finance for their own first features (including one with a staggering budget of pounds 3.5m). The second seminar, Screenwriting for the 90s: Selling Your Script to Hollywood, to be held at London's Metro Cinema on 25-26 July, will be hosted by Michael Haugh, author of Writing Screenplays that Sell, a guide now in its fifth American edition. Tickets cost pounds 95.

Further details on 071-730 7013.

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