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‘Kingdom of Heaven’ plagiarism claimed

James Reston says film's plot matches his 2001 book
/ Source: The Associated Press

A week before the much-anticipated film “Kingdom of Heaven” opens in theaters, the Crusades-era epic starring Orlando Bloom has sparked another battle.

Acclaimed author and scholar James Reston Jr. claims the film swiped the story line from his 2001 book, “Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade.”

“The essence of it is that this is a film that is derived from the first 100 pages of my book,” Reston told The Associated Press.

Reston would not say whether he planned to sue. “I think that’s in the hands of the attorneys,” he said.

A spokesman for the studio, 20th Century Fox, said Reston’s claims were “baseless and without merit.”

Reston, son of former New York Times executive editor James “Scotty” Reston, said producer Mike Medavoy optioned the rights to his book in November 2001 and weeks later sent a letter to Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott.

The Dec. 12, 2001, letter mentions Reston’s book by name and asks Scott to consider a movie based on the characters. “Think ’Lawrence of Arabia’ and ’A Man For All Seasons,”’ Medavoy writes in the letter, which Reston provided to the AP.

Scott declined Medavoy’s pitch, but went on to make “Kingdom of Heaven.”

'Laughable'Reston argues that Scott and his screenwriter scuttled their previous historical epic “and miraculously the screenwriter came up with this concept based on ’Warriors of God’ in a two-week timeframe.”

“They claim they never read the book and that’s laughable,” Reston said.

Medavoy, who is not involved in the dispute, said Tuesday he has not read the movie script.

“James feels that this violates his book, which at one time we optioned,” Medavoy told the AP, adding that he no longer has rights to the book.

“I’m just going to sit back and watch this transpire,” he said.

The film, which also features Liam Neeson, opens May 6.