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Writer sues makers of 'Shakespeare in Love'

A scene from "Shakespeare in Love"  

March 23, 1999
Web posted at: 2:11 a.m. EST (0711 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Novelist Faye Kellerman has sued the makers of the Oscar-winning film "Shakespeare in Love," saying the story is based on a novel she published in 1989.

Named in the lawsuit are Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, who won the Oscar for best original screenplay Sunday night.

Kellerman says their story is patterned on her tale of a lovelorn bard in the Elizabethan era-novel "The Quality of Mercy."

Kellerman's suit was filed in federal court on March 16, less than a week before the Academy Awards. Besides Norman and Stoppard, the suit names Miramax Film Corp. Inc., Universal City Studios Inc. and script publisher Hyperion Press Inc.

It seeks profits from the film and damages for Kellerman, who has penned such thrillers as "Prayers for the Dead" and "The Ritual Bath."

In both stories, a masquerade

But Miramax officials say the suit is baseless.

"The two stories are so different that the idea that one was copied from the other is absurd," Miramax spokesman Andrew Stengel said Monday.

Stengel said the timing of the lawsuit "suggests a publicity stunt."

"We are familiar with the claim and believe that it has absolutely no merit," he said. "We are confident that the court will reach the same conclusion."

In both the novel and the movie, a young William Shakespeare romances a woman who masquerades as a man.

"The Quality of Mercy" detailed Shakespeare's attempts to solve the murder of a friend while his love-interest helps Jews flee the Spanish Inquisition by smuggling them into London, according to a 1989 review of the novel from Publisher's Weekly.

"Shakespeare in Love" focused on the playwright's struggle to compose "Romeo and Juliet" while his lover cross-dresses her way onto the Elizabethan stage, where women were forbidden to perform.

The film won seven Oscars, including best picture.

Kellerman declined to comment on the suit. Barry Novak, her attorney, said Monday that "It's interesting that (the film) won the award, but as I said in the complaint it should have been for best adapted screenplay."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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