The trailer and ads for Madonna’s new sex thriller, Body of Evidence, opening Jan. 15, carry an unusual disclaimer. It reads: ”Not based on the novel by Patricia Cornwell.” The author penned 1991’s best-selling Body of Evidence, and behind the odd demurrer lies an odd legal battle.
A few months ago Cornwell asked MGM to change the film’s title because ”she didn’t want people to confuse her book (one in a mystery series featuring coroner Dr. Kay Scarpetta) with more sexually explicit works,” says her attorney, Neil Rosini. MGM refused on the grounds that the title had been used before. In fact, MGM discovered that at one TV network the moniker has become something of a fetish. Body of Evidence is the name of a 1988 CBS movie with Margot Kidder and Barry Bostwick, and of a 1991 CBS movie with Lesley Ann Warren and Peter Coyote, while Bodies of Evidence is the name of a CBS cop series that ran last summer and will return in early ‘93.
”We countered with the fact that the softcover edition of (Cornwell’s) Body of Evidence has sold more than a million copies,” Rosini says, ”and that amounted to a very strong consumer penetration.” Maybe it was his choice of words, but MGM eventually agreed to run the disclaimer and pay Cornwell what an MGM attorney describes as an ”extremely modest” sum, enough to cover her legal fees. In addition, when the paperback novelization of the movie hits the stands this week, it’ll be called Deadly Evidence — even though it will feature a photo of Madonna and costar Willem Dafoe on the cover.