Warren Beatty goes to court over Dick Tracy rights

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The Independent Online

Warren Beatty and Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Media are going to court over a bitter row about Dick Tracy, the comic strip detective that was turned into one of the American actor's most successful films.

At issue is whether Tribune Media is entitled to the film rights of the syndicated comic strip. Beatty wants to cash in on the lucrative Hollywood trend for turning comics into films by making a sequel to his 1990 hit, which he directed and starred in alongside his then-girlfriend Madonna.

The film cost $47m (£25m) to make but recouped $104m at the box office and a further $60m from rentals.

The actor bought the Tracy rights from Tribune Media in 1985 and passed them to Walt Disney to make the film. Under the deal, Tribune was entitled to take back the rights if it gave two years' notice.

According to Beatty's lawyer, the veteran Hollywood attorney Bertram Fields, Tribune tried to have the rights reverted in 2002, but later confusion arose as to whether this had actually happened: Tribune insisted it had the rights, while Disney maintained it had rejected Tribune's proposal and handed the rights to Beatty in May 2005.

Last week a judge rejected Tribune Media's attempt to have Beatty's complaint dismissed and ordered that the dispute be settled at trial. Last year, in court papers, the actor said Tribune Media had "clouded the title" and made it "commercially impossible" for him to make the sequel until the matter was settled. He filed a claim for $30m and asked for a return of the rights.

Mr Fields has represented various stars, including The Beatles, Steven Spielberg, Madonna and Dustin Hoffman. "The Tribune is a big, powerful company and they think they can just run roughshod over people," he said. "They picked the wrong guy."