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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 11:07 GMT
Notting Hill idea 'not poached'
Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts
Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts starred in the hit film
The producers of British hit film Notting Hill have described a $15m (10m) lawsuit alleging they stole the idea for the movie as nonsense.

Richard Curtis wrote the 1999 hit film, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, which went on to take more than $300m (204m) world-wide at the box office.

Richard Curtis
Richard Curtis wrote Blackadder and Four Weddings and a Funeral
He also wrote the earlier hit Four Weddings and a Funeral and is responsible for some of the most popular British sitcoms, including Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley.

But Hollywood screen writer Nick Villers is suing the producers of Notting Hill, alleging it was based on an original script he wrote in 1988.

He said he gave producer Eric Fellner a manuscript for a film called Cheek 12 years ago.

But a spokesman for Working Title films, which produced Notting Hill, said the legal action was typical of the industry.

"It is not a particular concern. This falls into the 'where there's a hit there's a writ' variety."

He added: "Richard Curtis writes on his own. He does not develop projects and he does not deliver scripts until he delivers a final draft.

"The idea that one of the most highly paid screenwriters in the world would have had any need to see a script by Nick Villiers is nonsense."

Mr Villers alleges that many of his ideas in the script for Cheek later appeared in the hit British film.

Film flop

He lodged a law suit last month in the Los Angeles superior court, naming Richard Curtis, Eric Fellner, producer Duncan Kenworthy and Universal Pictures.

Mr Villiers said he worked on the script, at Mr Fellner's suggestion, for nine years.

Mr Villiers wrote the 1997 film flop Blood and Wine, which starred Jack Nicholson and Jennifer Lopez.

The complaint outlines alleged similarities between Villiers' ideas and Notting Hill.

They include a similar setting in contemporary London, and a theme involving an ordinary Englishman who meets and has a romance with the biggest star in the world.

In the movie, Hugh Grant plays a book shop owner in Notting Hill who accidentally bumps into Julia Roberts, who plays a film star, and the two then embark on a romance.

The complaint also points out alleged similar details such as a loutish supporting character who betrays a friend and a public reunion at the end of the film.

Mr Villiers is suing for breach of a confidential relationship, fraud and misappropriation.

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