Director testifies in suit against Universal

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An assistant director on the hit film "2 Fast 2 Furious" was fired from his job because he was black, an attorney alleged Tuesday as the government began arguing its first racial discrimination lawsuit against a Hollywood movie studio.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Universal Pictures four years ago claiming first assistant director Frank Davis was fired without cause even after director John Singleton, who also is black, objected.

"They simply did not trust having two African-Americans behind the cameras," Robert Rose, an attorney for the EEOC, said in his opening statement.

The studio has denied the allegation, saying Davis could not handle his duties on a complicated, big-budget film that contained numerous action sequences and stunts.

Singleton, who hired Davis to work on "2 Fast 2 Furious," was expected to be a key witness, saying in a prior deposition that he thought race may have played a role in Davis' dismissal.

However, the director testified Tuesday that he made an "executive decision" to let Davis go after several film crew members complained about him.

Davis was in charge of the filming schedule and acting as a liaison between the director and other crew members. Singleton testified there were disputes over the amount of time allotted for filming the 2003 action movie. He said the film's producers, not Universal executives, first approached him about firing Davis.

"If all your different production heads are having problems with the (assistant director), then you have to make a change," Singleton said.

An attorney for Universal told jurors the studio was concerned Davis was unprepared for a production meeting, was absent at times and lacked "command" of the script.

"Nobody made Mr. Singleton do anything he didn't want to do," attorney Steve Cochran said in his opening statement.

Singleton was scheduled to resume his testimony Wednesday.

Davis, who was fired Oct. 6, 2002, joined the EEOC's suit alleging his civil rights were violated. He was seeking damages estimated at several million dollars.

The commission was seeking back pay and punitive damages as well as court-enforced monitoring, oversight of the studio's hiring and firing practices and anti-discrimination sensitivity training.
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