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Author Crosses Swords With Studio

By Richard Leiby
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page C03

Hollywood holy war: Twentieth Century Fox intends to transport moviegoers back to the 12th century in May with "Kingdom of Heaven," a $130 million epic treatment of the Crusades directed by Ridley Scott. But local author James Reston Jr. is crying foul: He claims the screenplay is based in part on his book "Warriors of God," which was optioned by Hollywood a few years ago.

"They have built this film on the back of my intellectual property," Reston told us yesterday. "They just read the first hundred pages and saw it has these great characters and a fantastic battle."

Olando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven
Olando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven
Author James Reston Jr. says the epic "Kingdom of Heaven," starring Orlando Bloom, is partly based on his 2001 book "Warriors of God." (David Appleby - Twentieth Century Fox)

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A spokeswoman for Fox responded: "This is a ludicrous claim. You cannot copyright the Crusades." The attorney for screenwriter William Monahan said he was "confident that any claim against Ridley Scott or Twentieth Century Fox will be exposed as clearly baseless and without merit."

The author of 11 books, Reston, of Chevy Chase, has made a specialty of writing popular histories with strong characters. A letter to Fox from his attorney, Timothy J. DeBaets, claims the "Kingdom of Heaven" script cribbed Reston's "historical timeline" as well as various characters, among them the film's main character, played by Orlando Bloom. Reston's second chapter also happens to be titled "Kingdom of Heaven."

Reston's 2001 book, which covers the Third Crusade, was optioned by veteran producer Mike Medavoy, who runs Phoenix Pictures. Reston says Medavoy sent the book to Scott, who was known to be interested in making a Crusades picture.

Said Medavoy: "Knowing Ridley, he might have said, 'Hey, what do I need them for?' "

We couldn't reach Scott yesterday for comment. Monahan's attorney, David M. Fox, said, "Mr. Monahan is astounded by these false, unfounded allegations."

James Carville, Ragin' Again On-Screen

• Will the political documentary craze never end? A dozen years after his star turn in "The War Room," James Carville is back in "Our Brand Is Crisis," which explores how American political operatives are reshaping campaigns around the globe -- specifically, how Carville and others worked to elect Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, known as Goni, in his country's 2002 elections.

The movie, directed by Rachel Boynton, is still searching for a distributor but had its New York premiere Saturday as part of a Lincoln Center film series. The Post's Juliet Eilperin reports that its primary focus is on Jeremy Rosner, a pollster at the firm that Carville ran at the time with Stan Greenburg and Bob Shrum, but that some of the funniest moments occur when Carville and other Washington luminaries (including ad consultant Tad Devine) parachute in to lecture Goni and his advisers on how to win the hearts and minds of poor Bolivians.

Carville, for example, tells his client that when campaigning he should stress that voters shouldn't trust other Bolivian politicians because "they're not going to know whether to wind their [rear ends] or scratch their watches." (And that's why he makes the big bucks.)

Beau Guest: The Guy At Barbara Bush's Side


Jay Blount, tall, dark and accompanying Barbara Bush. (J. Scott Applewhite - AP)
• Who's that boy? A tall, dark-haired young man has been repeatedly spotted by the side of First Twin Barbara Bush, in both Washington and New York. He was part of the close family circle that joined President Bush and Laura Bush for Easter services in Texas. A White House pool report said he's been "identified only as a friend of the family." Well, perhaps that's the term for beaus these days. Various media sources say the lucky guy is Jay Blount -- like Barbara, a Yalie.

The Yale Daily News says Blount is in the Class of '05 and is a founding member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. In Blount's sophomore year, Yale's Rumpus mag named him one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" on campus. So now you know.

Annals of Puffery

An Occasional Verbatim Press Release

• "Prom 2005 is your big day and Reve Avoix has created an irreverent and sassy undergarment line that will turn the ordinary prom attire into the extraordinary. Lil' Kim is a fan of Maria's Thong laced with champagne ribbon -- and Drew Barrymore is known to spice up her look by donning Francesca's Thigh High laced with cherry ribbon. This sleek collection of corseted thigh highs and knee highs are created with soft and luxurious fibers, accented with a variety of colored silk ribbon corsets -- adding a flirty accent to prom couture. Unlike any product on the market, all of the Reve Avoix collection is available with or without the corsets, adding the perfect flair for an unforgettable night."

With Anne Schroeder


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