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Warren Beatty Wins Lawsuit Against Tribune Company For Rights To 'Dick Tracy,' "Major" Project Next

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist March 26, 2011 at 6:13AM

Warren Beatty's original "Dick Tracy" (released in a Tommy-gun bullet hail of hype in the summer of 1990) is a tantalizing what-if scenario. Looking back on the film, it seems almost dreamily ahead of its time, with its primary color scheme and two-dimensional comic strip backdrops foreshadowing everything from Ang Lee's "Hulk" to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's "Sin City." At the time, though, it was largely derided and flopped at the box office (most people remember it for including the Roger Rabbit short "Roller Coaster Rabbit," which was only stapled on to the film after initial box office returns proved dire.)
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Warren Beatty's original "Dick Tracy" (released in a Tommy-gun bullet hail of hype in the summer of 1990) is a tantalizing what-if scenario. Looking back on the film, it seems almost dreamily ahead of its time, with its primary color scheme and two-dimensional comic strip backdrops foreshadowing everything from Ang Lee's "Hulk" to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's "Sin City." At the time, though, it was largely derided and flopped at the box office (most people remember it for including the Roger Rabbit short "Roller Coaster Rabbit," which was only stapled on to the film after initial box office returns proved dire.)

What wasn't clear back then (and in the years in between), was how committed Warren Beatty was to the original material. But, it seems, he was all about "Dick Tracy," and has just won a lawsuit against the comic strip's owner, the ailing Tribune Company, for control of the character.

According to reports, the area of contention was the inactivity of the character. Beatty was given motion picture and television rights 26 years ago, but under the stipulation that he would continue to develop projects featuring the yellow-coated detective. Tribune said that Beatty had gone slack, but he was working on a television project to air before a Turner Classic Movies showing of the 1990 film. The judge ultimately favored Beatty.

Beatty's lawyer Chuck Shephard told The Wrap, "Warren's goal is to do another major Dick Tracy project." Of course, what that project is remains to be seen. Beatty is conceivably too old to play the titular gumshoe as he did in the original film, but with animation and motion capture, anything is possibly in terms of him carrying on the character's good name (and gruff voice).

We also wonder if this means that Beatty's director's cut of the film, which supposedly clocks in at two-and-a-half hours and has a markedly darker tone, will finally see the light of day. At some point in the early aughts, it was going to be released through Disney's prestige DVD "Vista Series" brand, but those plans were just as quickly (and quietly) shuttered. It could be because of the bad taste the film has left in Disney's mouth. The box office failure of the movie meant a number of high profile (and publicized) projects had to be shelved, the most expensive and grandiose being an attraction at the then-Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) in Florida called "Dick Tracy's Crimestoppers." Disney had planned to milk the brand for years; instead it was a property whose life was cut inconceivably short.

Whatever the plans for the iconic character, it's good that Beatty at least has some direction for where Dick Tracy should go. Hopefully his next case will break very, very soon. [Reuters/The Wrap]

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