Proceeds from the sequel to Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather” published this week will be put in escrow while Paramount Pictures and the late novelist’s estate pursue litigation over the publishing rights.
“An interim agreement allows publication of the novel to go forward, pending resolution of this matter,” Richard Kendall, a lawyer for Los Angeles-based Paramount, said at a hearing today in Manhattan federal court.
Paramount, a unit of New York-based Viacom Inc., sued Anthony Puzo, Mario’s son and the executor of his estate, in February to prevent the publication of a third sequel to “The Godfather,” claiming that it wasn’t authorized.
Puzo countersued in March, saying that Paramount disregarded contractual promises to his father and breached a 1969 agreement. Puzo said the contract between the late author and the studio excluded book publishing rights.
“It’s a question of fact, of how much importance it was to Puzo to reserve publishing rights,” Bertram Fields, a lawyer for the writer’s son, told U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan today. “We’re seeking cancellation of the contract.”
The parties will attempt to resolve the dispute in mediation, the lawyers said.
Paramount said in its complaint that after Mario Puzo died in 1999, the company agreed to allow Bertelsmann AG’s Random House to publish a single Godfather sequel, “The Godfather Returns” in 2004. The estate published another novel, “The Godfather’s Revenge,” in 2006 without Paramount’s approval, the studio said. Paramount said the estate informed it last year of plans to publish a third sequel.
That volume, “The Family Corleone” by Ed Falco, was published on May 8, according to the website of Grand Central Publishing.
The first “Godfather” film came out in 1972 and won Academy Awards for best picture and for best adapted screenplay, for which Puzo shared credit. Francis Ford Coppola directed all three Godfather movies.
Nathan said she may hear oral arguments on Paramount’s motion to dismiss the Puzo counterclaims this summer.
The case is Paramount Pictures v. Puzo, 12-01268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).