Robert De Niro is responding to claims that his short film “Ellis” was plagiarized from the work of Italian filmmaker Stefania Grassi.
The Oscar winner’s film — starring De Niro, written by Eric Roth, and directed by French artist JR — follows a man as he wanders the halls of the abandoned Ellis Island immigrant hospital. It was recently screened at the New Yorker Film Festival.
Grassi has claimed on social media that the script for the short film was taken directly from her own short, “L’uomo in Frac.” Representatives for De Niro are calling her claims “libelous.”
“The idea that two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro provided Oscar winner Eric Roth with a script from an unknown Italian writer so that Mr. Roth could use it to write the 14-minute short film, ‘Ellis,’ about Ellis Island and early immigrants experience is not only preposterous, it is libelous,” De Niro’s attorney said in a statement to TheWrap.
“Mr. De Niro’s office does not accept scripts and even if someone hands him a script directly or through a friend, the material is thereafter sent on to his agent,” the statement continued. “Mr. De Niro never read any script from this unknown writer and never passed any such script to Mr. Roth.”
“As far as “Ellis” is concerned, the French artist JR approached Mr. De Niro’s partner, Jane Rosenthal, about the project, who arranged for JR and Mr. Roth to collaborate on the film and along the way Mr. De Niro volunteered his time because he believed strongly in the project and the work of JR,” the statement said.
“I think it is safe to assume that neither Mr. De Niro nor Mr. Roth needs to lift a part of unknown Italian writer’s screenplay for a 14 minute short,” the statement concludes.