Warren Beatty Foils Tribune Co., Plans Another ‘Dick Tracy’

A federal judge rules that the actor still owns rights to the crime-fighting character, paving the way for future projects

Now that he’s prevailed in his “Dick Tracy” lawsuit against Tribune Co., Warren Beatty fully intends to develop another project around the crime-fighting detective from the comics.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Thursday that the actor still owns the rights to the character, paving the way for further projects by Beatty, who directed and starred in the 1990 “Dick Tracy” film, which also starred Madonna, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman.

That film generated $163 million at the worldwide box office.

"Warren's goal is to do another major Dick Tracy project," his lawyer, Chuck Shephard, told TheWrap Friday.Tribune granted Beatty television and motion picture rights to the cartoon character 26 years ago. The dispute centered over stipulations surrounding subsequent projects featuring the character.

"The grant said that as long as Warren continued to make Dick Tracy programs, he would be able to keep the rights," Shephard explained. "If a period of time went by without him doing Dick Tracy programs, then Tribune could give him a notice giving him two more years within which to start a project … or he would lose the rights."

He said that Tribune was initially thrilled by Beatty’s interest in the property, which dated to the 1930s and was sitting fairly dormant. “The quid pro quo was, Tribune granted the rights to Warren and he got to keep the rights," he said.

Eventually, Tribune decided it wanted the rights back. In 2005, the company sued, saying it should get the rights to Tracy again. A year later, a federal judge dismissed the company's lawsuit.

Soon after, Tribune told Beatty that he had two years to start principal photography of a Dick Tracy "theatrical motion picture or television series or special" or lose the rights.

In a decision released this week, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson wrote that "in advance of the two-year deadline, (Beatty) gave written notice … that he had commenced principal photography of a Dick Tracy television segment."

The judge wrote that the segment was to air on Turner Classics Movies before the cable network aired the 1990 "Dick Tracy" movie.

Beatty wrote the special himself. It was fictional interview between real-life movie critic Leonard Maltin and the fictional detective Dick Tracy, and it included clips of prior iterations of the character.

The judge agreed with Beatty.