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'Crash' Producers Set For Court Clash

The cast and crew of "Crash" with their award for Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture pose in the press room during the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
GETTY IMAGES/Frederick M. Brown
Whether or not "Crash" wins the Academy Award for best picture Sunday, it stands to have a long run in the courtroom.

The complicated, multi-character movie about racism in Los
Angeles has an equally tangled off-screen story of lawsuits and
countersuits.

On Wednesday, Bob Yari, who first arranged funding for the
independent movie, sued the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences and the Producers Guild of America.

Yari was denied a producer's credit for the film, making him ineligible to stand onstage at the Kodak Theatre and receive an Oscar if "Crash" wins.

The academy and the guild have tried to limit the proliferation of producer credits by recognizing only a few per movie when it comes to receiving Oscars.

"Crash" has six credited producers but the academy and guild limited eligibility for Oscar purposes to the movie's co-writer and director, Paul Haggis, and to Cathy Schulman.

Yari sued in Superior Court, arguing that he was denied "due process" by the organizations because he was rejected "for reasons he has never been told, by persons who have never been identified."

He also took out full-page ads this week in Daily Variety and other trade papers to press his claims. "Secret evidence presented to a series of secret panels is not how justice proceeds in this country," his ad said.

The academy declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

"We have every confidence in the fairness of our procedures and look forward to the court upholding our process," Producers Guild Executive Director Vance Van Petten said in a statement Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Schulman and Tom Nunan sued Yari on Tuesday in Superior Court, contending that he failed to pay more than $2 million in producing fees and bonuses for three other movies.

The suit also contends that Yari torpedoed the production and Sundance Film Festival premiere of the upcoming Edward Norton movie "The Illusionist."

"This lawsuit is a shameful misrepresentation of the facts concerning my partnership with Ms. Schulman and Mr. Nunan," Yari said in a statement.

The suit came after Yari sued Schulman and Nunan in January, alleging they had taken money due to Yari's companies. The suit also alleged that Schulman falsely claimed she had made the decision to make "Crash" and had undermined sales of "The Illusionist."

"Crash" is nominated for six Academy Awards: best picture, supporting actor (Matt Dillon); director (Haggis); original screenplay (Haggis and Bobby Moresco); film editing and song.

The academy had a struggle, though, before deciding whether the song "In the Deep" was eligible because it appeared in a 2004 movie, "The Civilization of Maxwell Bright."

The nomination was allowed to stand after the academy concluded that Haggis commissioned the song and it was composed for "Crash" in late 2001 or early 2002.