The Case of the Wooden Witness
Francis Ford Coppola, that little old winemaker and filmmaker from Northern California, has been awarded a total of $80 million--80, eight-o--by a Los Angeles jury in a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over a failed attempt by Coppola to film a live-action version of “Pinocchio.”
The verdict sent a ripple of shock through the courtroom. As a veteran director, Coppola celebrated his victory by saying that he felt “totally vindicated.” As a veteran vineyard owner, Coppola toasted his victory with a glass of red wine and objected strenuously in the courtroom to the use of the word “ripple.”
All 12 jurors in the case agreed to make Coppola an offer he couldn’t refuse.
With his $80-million windfall, Coppola is expected to either direct a medium-budget film or run for governor.
A statement from Warner Bros. described the verdict as “simply ludicrous,” which was also the consensus review of two of Coppola’s last three films.
An appeal has already begun.
In fact, testimony on the appeal’s first day became extremely heated, with a brutal cross-examination of the first witness.
A partial transcript follows:
Bailiff: State your name for the record.
Pinocchio: Pinocchio. P-I-N-O-K-O.
Bailiff: I think that’s wrong.
Pinocchio: Nobody ever taught me to spell.
Warner’s attorney: Good morning, Mr. Pinocchio.
Pinocchio: Good morning.
Warner’s attorney: Can you tell us when you were born?
Warner’s attorney: And you’re Italian?
Coppola’s attorney: Objection, your honor. Relevance?
Warner’s attorney: What is your profession?
Warner’s attorney: So you’re an entertainer?
Pinocchio: I’m in the Guild, yes.
Warner’s attorney: Are you acquainted with a Francis Coppola?
Pinocchio: Only by reputation.
Warner’s attorney: Which of his films have you seen?
Pinocchio: I couldn’t get into most of them.
Warner’s attorney: Were you aware, Mr. Pinocchio, of a film that Mr. Coppola was planning to make about you?
Warner’s attorney: How did you feel about this?
Pinocchio: Well, I was concerned about being portrayed by a person as opposed to a puppet.
Warner’s attorney: You are made out of wood, sir?
Pinocchio: Last time I looked.
Warner’s attorney: Mr. Coppola doesn’t use wooden actors.
Pinocchio: No, except for in “Godfather III.”
Coppola’s attorney: Objection, your honor. Opinion.
Judge: Overruled. I saw “Godfather III.”
Warner’s attorney: Weren’t you quite upset, Mr. Pinocchio, at yet another film being made about you?
Pinocchio: Yes. Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.
Warner’s attorney: Were you consulted on this project?
Pinocchio: No. I specifically told Mr. Coppola’s agent, “Have your people call my people.”
Warner’s attorney: Who are your people?
Warner’s attorney: But they never called, did they?
Coppola’s attorney: Objection. Leading the witness.
Warner’s attorney: He’s a puppet. He has to be led.
Warner’s attorney: Isn’t it a fact, Mr. Pinocchio, that you think Mr. Coppola should give Warner Bros. back its $80 million?
Coppola’s attorney: Objection! The witness is obviously lying!
Judge: We have no way of knowing that.
Coppola’s attorney: Oh, yes, we do!
The case will continue next week.
Mike Downey’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.