Playwright Gregory Murphy is accusing Oscar-winner Emma Thompson of stealing his idea for a film about the life of Victorian philosopher John Ruskin and his wife Effie from a screenplay he sent to Thompson's husband, actor Greg Wise. Murphy penned a lengthy account of his legal wranglings with Thompson and producers over the proposed film, 'Effie,' and its similarities to 'The Countess,' Murphy's play and screenplay about Ruskin.
Murphy contends that Thompson and Wise, who co-wrote 'Effie' with the actress, were sent copies of his play and screenplay through a mutual friend -- the casting director for the West End production of 'The Countess' -- before their screenplay was written and that despite denials, both have read his script. According to Murphy, there are slight differences between the two films, particularly surrounding how the Effie character is portrayed, but they share "time-frame, character development, structure and tone" so closely that it cannot be coincidental.
In the article, Murphy recounts a positive meeting with Thompson at her home in London followed by nearly two years of brokering between lawyers over whom should receive credit for 'Effie''s screenplay. The negotiations recently fell apart, and the parties are now stuck in a protracted legal battle that has 'Effie''s producers seeking to have the screenplay's originality adjudicated by a court in New York so filming can begin this summer.