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Screenwriter sues Mel Gibson over `Passion' script

A screenwriter has sued Mel Gibson and his production company, claiming he was misled by the actor-director into accepting a small payment for writing "The Passion of the Christ," and was refused extra money when the film became a blockbuster.

Benedict Fitzgerald claims that when he was asked to write a script about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Gibson told him the movie would cost between $4 million to $7 million, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Superior Court. Fitzgerald also alleged Gibson promised he wouldn't receive any money from the film and any profit would be distributed to people who worked on it.

Gibson stated he didn't want "money on the back of what he considered a personal gift to his (Roman Catholic) faith," the lawsuit said.

Fitzgerald, who shared screenwriting credits with Gibson, claimed he agreed to "a salary substantially less than what he would have taken had he known the true budget for the film," which the lawsuit claimed had an estimated budget of $25 million to $50 million. The 2004 movie went on to gross several hundred million dollars.

The lawsuit doesn't specify how much Fitzgerald was paid.

An after-hours call to a publicist for Gibson, 52, wasn't immediately returned.

The lawsuit claims fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified damages. It also names Gibson's Icon Productions LLC as a defendant.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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