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Burt Lancaster Sues Columbia for $1.5 Million

May 24, 1988

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Actor Burt Lancaster filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Columbia Pictures on Monday, alleging the studio improperly fired him from the film ″The Old Gringo″ and replaced him with Gregory Peck.

The suit, filed in Superior Court, says the 74-year-old Lancaster was dismissed because the studio had trouble securing insurance for him. Such insurance protects the studio’s investment in a film should an actor die or become disabled.

The suit asks for $1.5 million for breach of an oral contract.

The suit further alleges that Columbia had begun negotiating with Peck even before Lancaster was fired from the film.

A telephone call to Columbia Pictures on Monday evening when unanswered.

Lancaster declined to discuss the suit.

According to the complaint, Lancaster and Columbia agreed in October 1987 that the actor would be paid a minimum of $1.5 million over a three-year period for his work. As part of the oral agreement, the studio was to obtain cast insurance.

The actor said the studio failed to notify him of problems in getting the insurance, until it announced in December that he was being fired from the film because the studio was unable to secure insurance for him at customary rates.

Lancaster had quadruple bypass heart surgery in 1983. In November of 1987, a doctor had determined that the actor’s heart conditon had stabilized and that Lancaster was in good health, the suit said.

In January, Lancaster demanded full payment when he was taken off the picture. Columbia sent the actor a check for $196,428 for pre-production work, which including rehearsing in Mexico and taking riding lessons. The check was returned, the suit said.

Lancaster, a former circus acrobat, came to Hollywood with little acting experience. But he established himself as a star with his first film, ″The Killers,″ with Ava Gardner in 1945.

In 1960, he received an Academy Award as best actor for his portrayal of the Depression-era huckster in ″Elmer Gantry.″ He was nominated for an Oscar for his performances in ″From Here to Eternity″ and ″Birdman of Alcatraz.″

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