Allen, Gibson settle lawsuits

Woody Allen agreed Monday to a $5 million settlement in his lawsuit accusing a trendy clothing company of using an image parodying him as a rabbi without his permission.

Woody Allen arrives to the federal courthouse in New York

Woody Allen arrives to the federal courthouse in New York

NEW YORK — Woody Allen agreed Monday to a $5 million settlement in his lawsuit accusing a trendy clothing company of using an image parodying him as a rabbi without his permission.

Both sides announced the settlement — to be paid by American Apparel’s insurance company — on the morning a trial was to start in federal court in Manhattan.

Reading from a statement outside court, Allen said he hoped the outcome “would discourage American Apparel or anyone else from ever trying such a thing again.”

American Apparel president Dov Charney told reporters it wasn’t his decision to settle. The company’s insurance company “controlled the defence” in the case, he said.

“I’m not sorry of expressing myself,” he said.

Allen, 72, sued the clothier last year for US$10 million after the advertisements turned up on billboards in Hollywood and New York, and on a web site. Using a frame from the film Annie Hall, the ads depicted Allen as a Hasidic Jew — long beard, side curls, black hat — and featured Yiddish text meaning “the holy rebbe.”

Court papers filed on Allen’s behalf had described the actor-director as one of the most influential figures in the history of American film, and say he believes maintaining strict control over his image has been critical to his success.

The papers claimed Allen hasn’t done commercials in the United States since 1960s, when he was a struggling standup comic. The billboards, he says, falsely implied he endorsed a clothing line known for its racy advertising — a “blatant misappropriation and commercial use of Allen’s image.”

Meanwhile, a settlement has been reached in a screenwriter’s lawsuit against Mel Gibson over The Passion of the Christ.

A notice of settlement filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court stated that an agreement had been reached and was being put into writing. The filing asked a judge to cancel a trial scheduled for June 3.

Benedict Fitzgerald sued Gibson and several film companies for $10 million in February 2008, claiming that Gibson and others vastly understated the budget for the 2004 blockbuster.

The screenwriter’s suit claimed Gibson told him the budget for the movie would be in the US$4-million to US$7-million range, but that it was significantly higher.

Fitzgerald also claimed that Gibson told him he would not receive any money from the film, but considered it a gift of his faith.

His lawyer also claimed Gibson spent tens of thousands of dollars on his children’s education while filming in Italy and paid a chiropractor $78,000.

They contended those expenses lowered payments to Fitzgerald.

Several of the lawsuit’s claims had been thrown out and, in recent hearings, lawyers for Gibson said the actual amount in dispute was significantly lower.

No details of the settlement were filed.

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