The family of "The Godfather" author Mario Puzo on Tuesday fired back at Paramount over its lawsuit intended to block a "Godfather" book sequel.
"Paramount wanted a war, and they're going to get one -- only the stakes will be much higher than they thought," the estate's lawyer, Bert Fields said in a statement.
How much higher? $10 million. The estate has filed a counterclaim against Paramount, seeking to end the company's "Godfather" book rights -- and asking for damages that could exceed $10 million.
Read the Puzo Estate's counterclaim here
"Mario Puzo brought vast wealth to Paramount at a time when they desperately needed it," Fields said. "Now that he's gone, Paramount's trying to deprive his children of the rights he specifically reserved. I promised Mario I'd protect his kids from this kind of reprehensible conduct."
In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Paramount said, “Paramount has tremendous respect and admiration for Mario Puzo and his legacy. We are only seeking to adhere to the terms of the deal that were agreed upon by Mr. Puzo himself.”
The counterclaim says that in 2011, the estate planned to publish a book that included characters from "The Godfather," and that Paramount "falsely asserted ... that the Puzo Estate had no right to publish that book."
As a consequence of that, the counterclaim says, the publisher decided to "withold its performance of the Publishing Contract," causing the estate "substantial monetary damages in a sum not yet known, but which the Puzo Estate alleges ... will exceed the sum of $10 million."
In February, Paramount filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan claiming that it purchased the copyright to Puzo's classic in 1969, and is trying to "protect the integrity and reputation of The Godfather trilogy" by blocking a sequel.
Read Paramount's complaint here
The studio says that it authorized one "Godfather" sequel book, "The Godfather Returns," to be published by Random House in 2004, following Puzo's 1999 death. A second novel, "The Godfather's Revenge," was published in 2006 without Paramount's authorization, the lawsuit claims.
Paramount's lawsuit claims that "The Godfather's Revenge" "tarnished" the legacy of "The Godfather" and "in the process, also misled consumers into believing that ‘The Godfather’s Revenge’ was authorized by Paramount.
The counterclaim that the Puzo estate filed claims that Paramount breached its contract with Puzo and should thus lose its "Godfather" book rights.