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Hutton Wins $9.75 Million in MGM Suit

Times Staff Writer

Actor Timothy Hutton has won a $9.75-million award against MGM after a Los Angeles Superior Court Jury found that the studio engaged in fraud and breached its contract when it canceled plans for the 1983 movie “Roadshow.”

Hutton had argued that MGM executives deceived him by telling him the picture was being terminated because the director, Richard Brooks, had suffered a heart attack. The actor contended that the studio, which had recently undergone a change of management, had lost interest in the film and that Brooks had never agreed to direct it.

The actor, who won an Academy Award for “Ordinary People” and is married to film star Debra Winger, also maintained that the studio made its decision to drop “Roadshow” in the spring of 1983 but did not tell him until several months later, thereby depriving him of other possible roles.

Among those testifying during the monthlong trial were actors Jack Nicholson and Mary Steenburgen, who also were supposed to appear in “Roadshow,” agent Sue Mengers and directors Brooks and Martin Ritt.

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Nicholson “resolved matters” with MGM several years ago, and Steenburgen filed a lawsuit and settled for an undisclosed sum, according to a company attorney, who asked not to be named.

Pattern of Deception

Hutton’s attorney, James Patrick Tierney, said MGM showed a pattern of deception by falsely claiming that Ritt, the original “Roadshow” director, bowed out because of an illness.

Instead, Tierney said, Ritt and MGM had experienced “creative differences.”

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He said Brooks “never unconditionally committed himself” but was waiting for script changes before agreeing to direct the film, a story about a modern-day cattle drive.

After deliberating two days, the jury on Friday voted 11 to 1 to award Hutton $2.25 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages.

“We were able to prove at the trial that Brooks wasn’t even under contract and that MGM had lied about Brooks’ commitment to even direct the movie,” Tierney said.

MGM, now owned by Turner Broadcasting, denied Hutton’s contentions and argued that as a result of Brooks’ illness, it was under no obligation to pay Hutton. “Turner is surprised and disappointed in the verdict and will seek a further review,” said the company attorney.

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