Curious case against 'Button' in Italy

Office worker claims screenplay is based on her 1994 story

ROME -- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" got a little stranger Friday, after an attorney representing Italian office worker filed legal papers alleging that the screenplay was based on a story she wrote in 1994.

The David Fincher film, nominated for 13 Oscars, features Brad Pitt in the role of Benjamin Button, a man who ages backwards. It was inspired by -- but not based on -- a 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Adriana Pichini, A Roman office worker, said the film seems to be based on a story she wrote 15 years ago called "Il ritorno di Arthur all'innocenza" (Arthur's Return to Innocence). The story was officially registered with the proper Italian copyright authorities in 1994 and even sent to publishers in the U.S., but was never published.

According to Gianni Massaro, Pichini's lawyer, a file was opened with the Rome Tribunal Court, which means a judge will watch the film and read the story. If the judge determines there are enough similarities to warrant an investigation, the court will launch one.

Massaro, a fixture in the Italian cinema industry and a former president of the Italian audiovisual association ANICA, said in an interview that he is not sure if Pichini will seek financial damages against Fincher, screenwriter Eric Roth, and the film's producers.

"At this point it's still a matter of principle," Massaro said. "What happens next will depend on what the judge rules."

It is not clear what authority an Italian court would have in this case, though Massaro noted that producers Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures both have Italian operations.

No timetable has been set for the judge's viewing. The rest of Italy will be able to see the film when it goes into nationwide release Feb. 13.
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