A former presidential aide claims in a lawsuit that plot and marketing elements of the Kevin Costner and Kelsey Grammer movie "Swing Vote" were stolen from him.
Political commentator Bradley Blakeman, a former deputy assistant to President Bush for appointments and scheduling, said in the lawsuit filed Thursday that he gave a copyrighted screenplay entitled "Go November" to Grammer in 2006.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Long Island, claims Grammer agreed to develop the project and star as an incumbent Republican president but ended up portraying a similar role in "Swing Vote," which was released Aug. 1.
A spokesman for Grammer and his production company, both named in the lawsuit, dismissed the claims as frivolous.
"I am not sure why Kelsey was even named in this suit," spokesman Stan Rosenfield wrote in an e-mail. "He was an actor who signed on to the project AFTER the script was written."
Blakeman's lawsuit, however, claims the former "Cheers" and "Frasier" actor told him to consult a producer who later told him repeatedly that they were interviewing potential screenwriters and planned to go ahead with the project.
The lawsuit claims Blakeman's screenplay shared a basic premise with "Swing Vote," although it focused on an election hinging on multiple swing voters instead of one swing voter.
Blakeman claims "Swing Vote" incorporated other elements that he proposed, including: the timing of the film's release, the use of real-life newscasters as actors playing themselves, the use of dirty tricks by both major political parties, marketing strategies and other plot points.
"Essentially, except for the character names and the relationship developed between the main characters played by defendant Kevin Costner and his daughter, the entire concept of 'Swing Vote' ... was taken from the copyrighted work," Blakeman's lawsuit claims.
The Walt Disney Co. is named as a defendant in the suit, as is Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group Inc. and Disney division Touchstone Pictures, which distributed "Swing Vote." Costner and the writers of "Swing Vote" also are among those named.
Spokeswomen for Disney and for distributor Treehouse Films said they hadn't seen the lawsuit and wouldn't comment. A spokesman for Costner, who helped finance the movie, said the "Dances with Wolves" and "Field of Dreams" actor was on vacation and couldn't be reached.
Blakeman's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Grammer was hospitalized in New York in late July after feeling faint, which Rosenfield said was possibly due to his heart medication. Grammer suffered a mild heart attack in late May.
Allegedly stolen idea aside, the guy should really sue Disney for giving Kevin Costner more work...