The legal proceedings between famed author Clive Cussler and Phillip Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment over the 2005 box office flop Sahara ended last week with the jury divided.
The Los Angeles Superior Court ordered the adventure author to pay Crusader $5 million in damages because of a breach in contract. Cussler reportedly inflated his book sales from 40 million copies to over 100 million during the film’s contract negotiation, a lie that motivated the company to pay the author $10 million apiece for the rights to two of his Dirk Pitt novels. Lawyers for Crusader stressed that the organization never would have agreed to pay Cussler that much had they known the actual number of books sold.
The jury also found that Crusader owed $8.5 million to Cussler for the rights to the second book (which would have been adapted into a screenplay for the proposed Pitt adventure film series). In terms of box office sales for the first film, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, the film opened at No. 1, but only grossed $68 million in the U.S., which resulted in an $80 million loss for Crusader. Because filming failed to begin on the second movie within the time constraints outlined in the original contract, the jury awarded Cussler the film rights to his books as well.
If Superior Court Judge John P. Shook upholds the jury’s verdict, Cussler will emerge from the dispute $3 million richer, which prompted the author’s lawyer, Bert Fields, to declare his client the winner.
Conversely, Crusader’s attorney Marvin Putnam interpreted the jury’s findings as a victory for the production company, and stated that: “It’s a massive vindication not only for Crusader and all the people who made the film, but also for the industry at large.”
Who the true victor is will depend on Judge Shook’s final decision, but neither side is at a loss to pay the potential damages. Cussler has penned over 30 novels, while Anschutz holds the title of one of the richest men in the country.