It might be a less deadly approach than that favored by Mario Puzo’s most famous creation, Don Corleone, but Paramount Pictures is taking to the courts to fight the publication of a prequel novel to The Godfather by Puzo’s estate.
In a complaint filed last Friday in a US federal court in Manhattan against Anthony Puzo, the author’s son and executor of his estate, the film company claims it bought the copyright for The Godfather in 1969 and the estate’s plans to publish a prequel later this year infringe on it. Paramount seeks damages and an injunction against publication of the novel.
The Family Corleone, due out in July, is based on an unfilmed screenplay by Puzo and written by the US author and playwright Ed Falco. Set in 1933, it traces Vito Corleone’s journey as he becomes the Don of The Godfather.
Announcing its publication last year, Anthony Puzo called it “true to Mario Puzo’s legacy” — the author died in 1999, aged 78 — adding that it would “be cherished by all Godfather fans.”
However, Paramount, which made the three Godfather movies, claims it authorized one, “but only one,” sequel novel to The Godfather — The Godfather’s Return in 2004. The publication in 2006 of a second sequel, The Godfather’s Revenge, was without its “knowledge or authorization,” and “far from properly honoring the legacy of The Godfather ... tarnished it,” it said.
Paramount’s lawsuit “seeks to protect the integrity and reputation of The Godfather trilogy.”
It says: “Paramount has suffered and will suffer irreparable harm as a result of the Puzo estate’s infringing conduct.”
After execution of the 1969 agreements, the only right in The Godfather novel that Puzo retained was “the right to publish the original novel in book form.”
Puzo wrote The Godfather when he was broke, once saying: “I wished like hell I’d written it better.”
It has sold more than 21 million copies.
“For Paramount to do this to Mario Puzo’s children after the tens of millions of dollars he made for the studio is outrageous,” said Bertram Fields, a Los Angeles lawyer for the Puzo estate.
A Paramount spokesperson said it had “tremendous respect” for Puzo, but: “We have an obligation to and will protect our copyright and trademark interests.”