Many dreams, and even a few nightmares, are born when 75 million Americans sit in front of their televisions to watch the Academy Awards.
No matter what happens at this evening’s ceremony, the Oscar night that Craig Mowry will never forget came in 1999. That night, Mr. Mowry, 40, watched and waited to see if “The Truman Show,” a critically acclaimed film by that year’s Wunderkind newcomer, Andrew M. Niccol, would win the award for best original screenplay.
Mr. Niccol, whose credits also include the film “Gattaca,” did not win. Bad news for Mr. Niccol, but good news, sort of, for Mr. Mowry. In a lawsuit he filed last spring in United States District Court in Manhattan seeking $50 million, Mr. Mowry contends that Mr. Niccol was not the authentic author of that movie. “The Truman Show,” heralded by critics for its original and compelling story about the last days of a reality television show, stars Jim Carrey as a young man who, without knowing it, has been watched day and night since birth, by millions of viewers.
Mr. Mowry, an independent producer, contends that he originated the idea as well as much of the language, setting and characters that made their way into “The Truman Show” in a script he calls “The Crew.” It was written in the early 1980’s and first copyrighted in 1986, five years before Mr. Niccol’s first treatment, or synopsis, for “The Truman Show” was registered with the Writers Guild of America.
Both Mr. Mowry and Mr. Rudin are expected to be deposed this week in New York. The defendants are all represented by Loeb & Loeb in New York, which would not comment on the case. Mr. Niccol did not respond to a message left at the office of his agent at the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles.
The Mowry case appears to be developing an audience among film industry buffs, who see it as a whodunit dealing with the confusing matters of copyright infringement. Joy R. Butler, a lawyer in Washington, has been talking about Mr. Mowry’s case in seminars she gives on legal matters of concern to creative artists. Examining the court documents, she said, she found that “the entire concept of ‘The Truman Show’ is present in the plaintiff’s copyrighted work.”