LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Lawyers for filmmaker James Cameron were ordered today to turn over screenplay drafts for “Avatar” to attorneys representing a man who alleges that a project he spent two years developing became the basis for the blockbuster film.
However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alan Rosenfield said he was denying for now a request by plaintiff Eric Ryder’s legal team to view scripts, screenplays and other records related to any sequels for the movie.
“We have to be careful and sensitive about ideas and information,” Rosenfield said. Ryder filed suit in December 2011 against Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment. Ryder alleges that from 1996-98, he wrote and completed a story called “K.R.Z. 2068″ that had elements similar to the Oscar-nominated movie and is seeking compensation.
Rosenfield also denied Ryder’s attorneys access to the personal calendars of Cameron and Jon Landau, the chief operating officer of Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment Inc.
Lawyer K. Andrew Kent, on behalf of Ryder, said the motion to compel the other side to turn over information was successful for the most part because Rosenfield granted 42 separate requests. He said he and Ryder’s legal team also will get access to backup tapes from computers used by Cameron.
Cameron’s attorneys have submitted court papers asking that Ryder’s case be dismissed. Kent said the documents obtained through today’s motion will be used to try to defeat the dismissal motion and later at trial.
Cameron’s lawyer, Aaron Wais, said the director is currently working on the screenplay for an “Avatar” sequel. Forcing him to release any anything related to future films would be tantamount to requiring the director to reveal trade secret information, Wais said.
Rosenfield agreed, but said his view may be different after deposition testimony and other discovery is completed.
“It (sequel information) goes into areas that I don’t think lead to admissible evidence, but that may change,” Rosenfield said.
The judge also said he has not seen “Avatar,” but indicated by his remarks that he was aware of the skin color of the film’s characters.
“I don’t think I’ll ever wear a blue suit again,” Rosenfield said. Cameron has submitted a sworn declaration denying Ryder’s allegations.
“Unequivocally, the story for ‘Avatar’ is the result of my independent creation,” according to Cameron. “More specifically, as it relates to this case, in creating ‘Avatar’ I did not use any ideas or materials from an individual named Eric Ryder. I have never met Mr. Ryder. Nor have I communicated with Mr. Ryder.”
The “K.R.Z.” project was to be an environmentally themed 3-D film, the suit says. Both Ryder and LEI worked on its development for nearly two years after independent film producer Andrew Wald submitted it to the company on Ryder’s behalf, according to Ryder’s suit.
“The ‘KRZ’ project envisioned a 3-D animation-infused epic about a corporation’s colonization and plundering of a distant moon’s lush and wondrous natural setting, the corporation’s spy nest to crush an insurrection on the distant moon among anthropomorphic, organically created beings populating that moon…,” according to the suit.
Cameron, 58, says he created and wrote “Avatar” five years before Ryder alleges he pitched “KRZ” to Lightstorm in 2000.
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