Ray Bradbury is demanding an apology from filmmaker Michael Moore for lifting the title from his classic science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 without permission and wants the new documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 to be renamed.
"He didn't ask my permission," Bradbury, 83, said on Friday. "That's not his novel, that's not his title, so he shouldn't have done it."
The 1953 novel, widely considered Bradbury's masterpiece, portrays an ugly futuristic society in which firemen burn homes and libraries in order to destroy the books inside and keep people from thinking independently.
Fahrenheit 451 takes its title from the temperature at which books burn. Moore has called Fahrenheit 9/11 the "temperature at which freedom burns."
His film, which won top honors in May at the Cannes Film Festival, charges that the Bush administration acted ineptly before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, then played on the public's fear of future terrorism to gain support for the war against Iraq. It opens nationwide in the US next Friday.
Bradbury, who hadn't seen the movie, said he called Moore's company six months ago to protest and was promised Moore would call back.
He finally got that call last Saturday, Bradbury said, adding Moore told him he was "embarrassed."
"He suddenly realized he's let too much time go by," the author said by phone from his home in Los Angeles' Cheviot Hills section.
Joanne Doroshow, a spokeswoman for Fahrenheit 9/11, said the film's makers have "the utmost respect for Ray Bradbury."
"Mr. Bradbury's work has been an inspiration to all of us involved in this film, but when you watch this film you will see the fact that the title reflects the facts that the movie explores, the very real life events before, around and after 9-11," she said.
Bradbury, who is a registered political independent, said he would rather avoid litigation and is "hoping to settle this as two gentlemen, if he'll shake hands with me and give me back my book and title."
Moore's film needed new distributors after Disney refused to let its Miramax subsidiary release it, claiming it was too politically charged. The documentary was later bought by Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who lined up Lions Gate and IFC Films to help distribute it.
Bradbury's book was made into a 1966 movie directed by Francois Truffaut.
A new edition of the book is scheduled for release in eight weeks, Bradbury said, and plans are in the works for a new film version, to be directed by Frank Darabont.