Alan Rickman’s new movie Bottle Shock is facing delays after Steven Spurrier (the British wine merchant he portrays in the film) is pressing legal action. Steven Spurrier has accused the producers of defamation and threatened to sue in the strongest possible terms.
This is due to the rivalry between Bottle Shock and The Judgement of Paris which cover the Decanter Magazine’s consultant editor’s legendary 1976 Paris Tasting. The Judgement of Paris is claiming to be the ‘official’ version and is sanctioned by Spurrier himself, and George Taber, who wrote the definitive version of the events 30 years ago.
Elizabeth Fowler and Clark Peterson, the producers of The Judgement of Paris, insist that theirs is the official version, as they own the rights to Taber’s book recounting the story of the tasting and hold “life” rights to Spurrier and other leading protagonists in the event. They say they are preparing to take legal action against Bottle Shock.
While Taber, who was the only journalist at the event, is understood to be consulting his lawyers, Spurrier has written to Randall Miller, the director of Bottle Shock, threatening legal action unless references to himself and his former businesses – Les Caves de la Madeleine and L’Academie du Vin – are removed from the film.
Nadine Jolson, a spokeswoman for Bottle Shock, said that the film was about the same historic event, ‘and nobody owns the rights to that.’ She said filming would not stop – and added that their script was written in 2004, two years before Taber’s book about the event was finished. She also claimed the real reason for the threats is concern that The Judgement of Paris might be overshadowed, in the same way that the film Infamous was overshadowed by its rival Capote last year.
The Telegraph reports Spurrier as saying:
“There is hardly a word that is true in the script and many pure inventions as far as I am concerned. It’s deeply insulting. They are depicting me as an impossibly effete snob. The idea of Alan Rickman playing me is most bizarre and about as far from historical truth as one can get. He’s a really nice guy, but I was a very young 34 at the time.”
Spurrier said that he plans to contact the surviving 1976 tasters to warn them about Bottle Shock.
Miss Fowler said she expected The Judgement of Paris to finish shooting next year, and that the main aim of the legal action is to stop an inaccurate version of the story being told.
It seems to me that both films are hoping to cash in on the success of 2005’s wine-themed Oscar winner Sideways. If it rests on a race to the finish then Bottle Shock will win – but there are two sides to every story and this is an interesting one full of characters, under dogs and great wines. Personally my money is on Bottle Shock but as nothing has been revealed about The Judgement of Paris and its script so far I could be wrong!
Why Bottle Shock you may ask? Apart from the fact that Rachael Taylor takes her top off – repeatedly – it looks like fun. The San Francisco Chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/) have obtained a June draft and it has a good story, humour and passion. Taylor plays a wine intern named Sam who, in the script, becomes a romantic interest for Bo Barrett after also spending an evening with Gustavo Brambila (played by Freddy Rodriguez).
Brambila, who in real life was an assistant to then Chateau Montelena winemaker Mike Grgich, is a major presence in the film, while Grgich who actually made the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the Paris Tasting is seen and mentioned briefly in the beginning of the script and then never appears again. Grgich’s character has no lines, and that’s no accident.
Grgich, who left Chateau Montelena to start Grgich Hills Cellar in 1977, and Jim Barrett have differed for years on who should get the credit for the famous wine, which French judges declared in a blind tasting to be superior to some of the finest wines of Burgundy. That feud has made it to Hollywood.
The screenplay for The Judgement of Paris is still being written by veteran screenwriter and Sonoma Valley vineyard owner Robert Mark Kamen. Kamen called Bottle Shock a “settling of scores” between Barrett and Grgich, who is expected to play a much larger role in The Judgement of Paris.
About Grgich’s small role in the story, Randall Miller says, “Telling a movie and telling a documentary are two different things. A documentary would be about Grgich and seeing how the wine ferments. It’s not about that. It’s about the characters and we think we chose the most interesting. It’s like a painter painting. It’s not that interesting to watch the paint dry. I find the father-son dynamic interesting.”
The script has several scenes in which Jim and Bo Barrett box, and Bo ends up knocked out.
The real revelation, though, is how Rachael Taylor’s character saves Chateau Montelena. In an event in the script that Grgich has always said didn’t happen, Jim Barrett discovers one weekend that all of the famous Chardonnay has turned brown. (White wines can appear discoloured temporarily when they are bottled with no exposure to oxygen.) Distraught, he takes the entire truckload of it to a local bar manned by Eliza Dushku for recycling and drives to San Francisco to sign papers to get out of the wine business.
Meanwhile, Bo and Sam (Taylor) visit a UC Davis professor who assures them the wine will turn golden again on its own. They need to call Jim to prevent him from doing anything rash, but there were no cell phones in 1976. And their truck runs out of gas. What to do?
Sam pulls her top up beside the road, attracting a police officer. When he at first refuses to drive them to a pay phone, she pulls her top up again. Helpless, he gives them a ride while saying,
“I don’t know much about Chardonnays, but I once tasted a 1953 Gruaud -Larose which was like God’s nectar. I’d leave my wife in the gutter for another taste of that voluptuous noble fluid with subtle hints of magnificent liquorice and cooked ripe black currant.”
Knowledgeable chap that copper!
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