Robert De Niro’s lawyer, Tom Harvey, is firing back at Italian director Stefania Grassi after she accused De Niro of plagiarizing her work to use in his short film titled, Ellis.
According to News Net 5, the Oscar winner stars in the 14-minute movie, written by Eric Roth and directed by Frenchman JR. The film follows a man (De Niro) as he wanders the halls of the abandoned Ellis Island immigrant hospital. The film was recently screened at the New Yorker Film Festival.
Since then, Grassi has been taking to social media to accuse the Raging Bull actor of stealing his ideas from her own short film, L’uomo in Frac. After hearing Grassi’s allegations, Harvey lashed back, calling them “preposterous” and “libelous.”
— Variety (@Variety) November 13, 2015
“The idea that two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro provided Oscar winner Eric Roth with a script from an unknown Italian writer so that Mr. Roth could use it to write the 14-minute short film, Ellis, about Ellis Island and early immigrants experience is not only preposterous, it is libelous,” Harvey wrote in a statement on Friday, November 13.
“Mr. De Niro never read any script from this unknown writer and never passed any such script to Mr. Roth,” Harvey continued. “As far as Ellis is concerned, the French artist JR approached Mr. De Niro’s (production) partner, Jane Rosenthal, about the project, who arranged for JR and Mr. Roth to collaborate on the film and along the way Mr. De Niro volunteered his time because he believed strongly in the project and the work of JR.”
“I think it is safe to assume that neither Mr. De Niro nor Mr. Roth needs to lift a part of (an) unknown Italian writer’s screenplay for a 14 minute short.”
According to Tribeca,Ellis Island was a gateway to a new life for millions of immigrants, and is located in the upper bay just off the New Jersey coast, within the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. While there were many who were approved to enter the United States, there were many more that were denied access into the country due to illnesses, and they were forced to be hospitalized in the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, which opened in 1902 and saw 1.2 million people pass through the facility.
In the 62 years it was open, Ellis Island was the largest and most active immigration center in the United States. https://t.co/qf2Y41ZZkh
— NatGeo Education (@NatGeoEducation) November 13, 2015
The island was named the first Federal immigration station by President Benjamin Harrison in 1890. It was originally only 3.3 acres, but was later enlarged to 27.5 acres “by landfill obtained from ship ballast and possibly excess earth from the construction of the New York City subway system,” according to the Libery Ellis Foundation.
“Combining a sense of place, history, and documentary images, Ellis nudges our collective memory, evoking the countless individuals throughout history and the contemporary moment who seek freedom from persecution and poverty, abandoning their homes and families for a chance at a better, if uncertain, future.”
Despite Robert De Niro denying the plagiarism claims, Grassi said there is significant documentation to prove he stole the idea from her own short film.
“In addition, there is extensive correspondence between Mrs. Grassi and Mr Josh Lieberman (agent of Mr De Niro) and his the lawyer Mr. Peter Grant (Legal thereof) that received more than a year ago both the subject and the screenplay of “The Man in tails” (“L’Uomo in Frac”) indicating first – through Mr. Danilo Mattei, the Italian actor and friend of Mr De Niro – a great interest in the script, and then declining any involvement in the project to Mrs. Grassi,” Grassi said in a statement, according to Variety.
[Photo by Kin Cheung/Associated Press]