Passion Screenwriter Sues Mel Gibson

02/11/2008 at 05:55 PM EST

Passion Screenwriter Sues Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage
The co-screenwriter of The Passion of the Christ has sued Mel Gibson for $5 million, alleging Gibson conspired against him to deprive him of fair compensation and keep more money for himself.

In the 21-page complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Benedict Fitzgerald accuses Gibson of fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices.

"Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben's fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs," the lawsuit says.

Fitzgerald claims Gibson, who also takes a screenwriting credit on the 2004 film, engaged in a "chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit," telling Fitzgerald he'd be working on a small, $4 million to $7 million project that would yield little money for Fitzgerald and none for Gibson.

Although by some accounts the film grossed over $600 million worldwide, Fitzgerald complains he was paid $75,000 and that he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson for expenses.

George R. Hedges, an attorney for Gibson's production company, Icon, says the lawsuit "is utterly baseless and the charges are utterly baseless."

He says he cannot divulge Fitzgerald's total compensation on the film, but Fitzgerald "was handsomely compensated – a very significant amount of money for any writer on any project."

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