Gladiator film-maker SIR Ridley Scott has been accused of plagiarising an historical author's research for his forthcoming epic Kingdom of Heaven.

Author JAMES RESTON JR claims three-times OSCAR-nominated Scott ripped off his book WARRIORS OF GOD: RICHARD THE LIONHEART AND SALADIN IN THE THIRD CRUSADE, published in 2001.

Scott and studio TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX say they've never read Reston Jr's book, but the writer believes they may have violated international copyright law, after he read a copy of Kingdom Of Heaven's script.

He is now seeking a place on the film's credits for an alleged loss of $500,000 (GBP263,000) in earnings, and five per cent of the box office takings.

A major character in Warriors Of God, BALIAN OF IBELIN, is played by star Orlando Bloom in Scott's film. However, Reston Jr says no historical book has paid much attention to this man - except for his own.

The rights to Warriors Of God were bought by producer Mike Medavoy, who then forwarded a copy to Scott with an eye to collaborating on a film based on it, claims Reston Jr.

The author says their offer was declined as Scott was working on a Crusades project of his own.

Reston Jr tells British newspaper THE TIMES, "Events, characters, scenes, descriptions and characters' tensions are strikingly similar.

"There's a ton of similarities. I've been through a long process of comparison between the book and the script.

"After Scott declined the business offer of a collaboration, he then focused on the same material."

Although the studio declined to comment on the matter, it's believed Twentieth Century Fox will state that Scott never read Warriors Of God and that his film is not similar anyway.

Scott's movie, about the Third Crusade in the twelfth century when Christian Europeans failed to wrestle control of Jerusalem from Muslims, also stars Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons and is due for release in May (05).

31/03/2005 14:09