“Pirates of the Caribbean.” “The Matrix.” “The Last Samurai.” “Broken Flowers.” “Amistad.”
Success isn’t all these films have in common. Each was also challenged by a lawsuit claiming “idea theft” _ a common Hollywood problem that lawyers say is likely to continue as long as huge movie studios wield enormous power.
“It’s like having your soul ripped out,” says 37-year-old Cleveland resident Jeff Grosso, who paid his way through film school by playing Texas Hold ‘Em, wrote a screenplay about it, then sued Miramax over its poker movie “Rounders.”
“All they would have had to do was give me a ‘story-by’ credit,” Grosso says. “They could have gotten me for nothing. I could have gone and used that credit to get other work. All I ever wanted to do was write movies.”
But why would movie studios, with every resource at their disposal, steal stories? Are these writers just cranks, frustrated wannabes with delusions of creativity?
No, says attorney John Marder, who specializes in representing aggrieved writers. Many are victims of a system that favors studios and networks and offers little protection for writers and ideas.