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Film About a Double Life Engenders Double Lawsuits

Girls will be boys . . . Girding their loins for legal war . . . Battling over Brad in babe garb.

Some films create buzz. Others, litigation. “Boys Don’t Cry” already is stirring up a bit of both.

The film about the 1993 rape and murder of Teena Brandon (aka Brandon Teena) is winning critical raves in limited release. And it has inspired two lawsuits--one by a real-life character, the other by the author of a book about the dark tale of gender-bending and murder.

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In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Lana Tisdel of Falls City, Neb., claims that the film defames her and invades her privacy by using her real name without paying for it and then falsely portrays her as “lazy,” “white trash” and a “skanky snake.”

In the film, the Tisdel character falls in love with Brandon, thinking she is a he. The character abuses drugs and alcohol and falls asleep at the murder scene. As a result, Tisdel claims, she “has and will be scorned and/or abandoned by her friends and family, some of whom will now believe she is a lesbian [who] did nothing to stop a murder.”

The suit filed by attorney Charles M. Coate seeks unspecified monetary damages from Fox Searchlight Pictures, writer-director Kimberly Pierce, co-writer Anthony Bienen, producer Christine Vachon and a host of related people and companies.

Fox Searchlight called Tisdel’s lawsuit “groundless” and said the film’s portrayal of her relationship with Brandon is “emotionally true.” Pierce said Tisdel signed a release and cooperated with the project.

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DON’T CRY II: Fox Searchlight et al. also are being sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by Aphrodite Jones, author of the 1996 book “All She Wanted.” Jones claims that she bought the life rights to the major characters and struck a deal with producers Diane Keaton and Bill Robinson for the film version, which Fox optioned.

But, the suit alleges, Fox Searchlight dragged its feet on the project, all the while agreeing to buy Vachon’s completed film for $5 million. The suit, filed by attorney Glen Kulik, says Fox snuffed out any competition for “Boys Don’t Cry” by pretending to develop the Jones project to keep it out of circulation.

Keaton and Robinson have settled.

But Jones filed court papers Friday alleging fraud and breach of contract by Fox Searchlight and cohorts. She seeks damages in excess of $1 million. Fox Searchlight is looking into Jones’ charges, a spokesman said.

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LEGAL BRIEFS: Frederick’s of Hollywood is suing New Line Cinema in federal court, claiming that an upcoming movie about founder Frederick Mellinger will tart up the lingerie chain’s image at a time when it’s going mainstream.

Frederick’s is asking a U.S. District judge to halt production, claiming that the company’s current owners have invested millions of dollars to overcome the firm’s image as a “1950s sex shop.” Nowadays, the lawsuit states, the typical Frederick’s customer is a “middle-income American woman seeking intimate apparel that makes her feel good.”

According to the suit, New Line, whose latest hit was “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” is producing a Mellinger movie that will tell the “rags-to-riches tale of one of the first entrepreneurs to mass-market sex.”

Court papers quoted the film’s producer as saying Mellinger “revolutionized sex in this country” by inventing such unmentionables as “the Fannie Former Girdle, tush-up panties and a line of garter belts that made even Marlene Dietrich blush.”

New Line might hold the rights to the story of Frederick, the man, but not to Frederick’s, the underwear, the suit claims. No comment from New Line.

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THE PITTS: Rolling Stone and its chief photographer are suing a Santa Monica news service, claiming that it ripped off six photos of Brad Pitt in a dress, which appeared in the October issue of the magazine.

Headline News L.A. digitally altered the photos and rewrote a Rolling Stone cover article about Pitt and sold it to tabloids and foreign publications, claims a copyright infringement suit filed in U.S. District Court.

By invoking the name Headline News, a representative of the Santa Monica service created the impression that he was calling from the CNN affiliate, the suit states.

Thinking the caller was from CNN, Rolling Stone granted permission for limited use of the photographs, the suit states. Straight Arrow Publishers Co., Rolling Stone’s parent company, and photographer Mark Seliger seek unspecified damages. The folks at Headline News L.A. could not be reached for comment.


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