- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

Plagiarism charge

The author of the blockbuster novel “The Da Vinci Code” faces an English High Court challenge today from two men who claim he stole their ideas.

Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing their own publisher, Random House, claiming Dan Brown’s book draws heavily on their 1982 best-seller “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.”

Mr. Brown’s 2003 book has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and earned the American $78.5 million in one year, instantly making the writer one of the world’s richest.

The book by Mr. Baigent and Mr. Leigh tackles theories that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child and the blood line continues to the present day, with the Catholic Church aware of the discovery but suppressing it.

A third author, Henry Lincoln, is not part of the lawsuit.

Mr. Brown’s book, which combines thriller, detective and conspiracy-theory genres, explores similar themes about the Vatican covering up the true story of Jesus.

The novel has been translated into 44 languages and has drawn criticism from the Roman Catholic Church and historians.

If the plaintiffs are successful and obtain injunctions preventing the use of their material, it could threaten the British release of the film adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code.”

The big-screen version, which cost $100 million and stars American two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, British veteran actor Ian McKellen and French favorites Audrey Tatou and Jean Reno, is scheduled to open in Britain on May 19.

The case is expected to last up to two weeks, barring a settlement. It also is likely to clarify the extent to which an author can use other people’s research under existing copyright laws.

Mr. Brown acknowledges the theories of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” in his novel. The villain is called Sir Leigh Teabing, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Mr. Baigent and Mr. Leigh’s surnames.

Alaskan ‘Meltdown’

John Leguizamo will arrive by dog sled at an ice-carving festival in Fairbanks to open a park with characters from the upcoming sequel to his film “Ice Age,” Alaska state officials said.

“How often does Fairbanks, Alaska, have a Hollywood star coming here — in wintertime?” said Dick Brickley, chairman of Ice Alaska, sponsor of the annual World Ice Art Championships, which kick off tomorrow.

Mr. Leguizamo will arrive at an ice stage March 12, officials said Friday. The actor then will help Gov. Frank H. Murkowski cut through an ice ribbon with blowtorches.

“Ice Age 2: The Meltdown” stars characters voiced by Mr. Leguizamo and other actors. Besides towering sculptures, the monthlong ice festival this year will feature huge carvings of Sid the sloth, voiced by Mr. Leguizamo, and other characters from the “Ice Age” movies. The sequel opens March 31.

The Hollywood visit means more attention to the yearly ice art festival, considered a world-class competition. The event matches teams racing to create intricate carvings that can be as tall as 30 feet and weigh more than 22 tons.

Santa Fe star power

Jessica Simpson took a break from filming her latest movie to dine with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, his wife and others at the governor’s mansion.

Miss Simpson, who is in Santa Fe filming “Employee of the Month,” ate with the governor Thursday night. The film is the fifth shot in New Mexico by Lions Gate Entertainment, an independent production and distribution studio.

Mr. Richardson, a contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, has rolled out the red carpet for other celebrities. Most recently, he dined at the mansion with Irish actor Liam Neeson.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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