Emma 'ripped off my ideas for plot of her film': U.S. author accuses Thompson of plagiarism
By Dalya Alberge
Last updated at 7:50 AM on 24th October 2011
Its subject is a story of scandal and intrigue in Victorian England.
Now Emma Thompson’s latest film has become embroiled in its very own modern-day controversy.
She has been accused of stealing another writer’s ideas for the script of Effie – the tale of the disastrous marriage of art critic John Ruskin and his teenage wife Effie Gray. The actress has dismissed the accusation.
Stars: Emma Thompson, with husband Greg Wise
Miss Thompson, who won an Oscar for her screenplay of Sense and Sensibility, has written the script for Effie, which has just begun filming in Scotland.
She will star in the movie, alongside her husband Greg Wise as Ruskin.
Ruskin refused to consummate his marriage to Effie – who will be played by 17-year-old Dakota Fanning – driving her into the arms of Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.
American writer Eve Pomerance claims that Miss Thompson plagiarised her
script. Miss Pomerance says some details which depart from documented history
are the same in both.
Accuser: Eve Pomerance
Examples include scenes at a costume ball in Venice, which is not mentioned in Effie’s letters, and references to Millais teaching Effie how to draw, which he did not, according to Miss Pomerance.
And she claims Wise starred in a performance of her work The Secret Trials of Effie Gray 13 years ago, kept the script, and then helped his wife on her new screenplay. Her lawyer Marc Lebowitz said: ‘He is Thompson’s husband, he assisted in writing the screenplay.
‘Wise was listed as the co-writer, [although] his name is no longer on the script, except as a researcher… She [Miss Pomerance] contacted Wise to congratulate him and to ask for a small acknowledgement. His reply was that it was an “original Emma Thompson screenplay”.’
Miss Pomerance learnt about Miss Thompson’s Effie while trying to get her own film off the ground.
But due to the similarities, her talks with a celebrated director came to an end.
Effie Film, the company behind Miss Thompson’s production, is now seeking a legal judgement that the script does not infringe copyright. DLA Piper, the company’s lawyers, insist Miss Thompson had no ‘access’ to Miss Pomerance’s work.
They dismiss the accusations as ‘frivolous and objectively unreasonable’.
‘Thompson applied her own creative imagination to well-known public domain facts of history and biography,’ a spokesman said.
However, this is not the first accusation of plagiarism concerning the film.
Two years ago another American writer, Gregory Murphy, said Miss Thompson had ripped off his play The Countess after a friend had sent her a copy of his script – a claim which the 52-year-old actress also denies.