Video: Title dispute

updated 6/29/2004 12:14:12 PM ET 2004-06-29T16:14:12

Legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury is the author of more than 500 published works, including the 1953 classic “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles.”   In early 2000, he was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  His novel, “Fahrenheit 451” sold over 4 million copies.  It is a tale of censorship in a future world where totalitarian leaders forbid the written word.  In efforts to preserve their history and culture, inhabitants of the state start memorizing all types of books. 

Bradbury discussED “Fahrenheit 451” with Hardball’s guest host Andrea Mitchell, and talked about his displeasure with Michael Moore's documentary of a similar title. Bradbury says Moore mimicked the title without asking his permission.

ANDREA MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Mr. Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 9/11” grossed more than $21 million this weekend.  Are you surprised by its box office success and how do you feel about the takeoff on “Fahrenheit 451”?

RAY BRADBURY, AUTHOR, “FAHRENHEIT 451”:  Well, I’m very unhappy about it, because he borrowed my title six months ago and never called me.  I found out about it in “Variety” magazine.  And I called “Variety” and I said, what is this Michael Moore doing borrowing the title of my book? 

They said, "Well, we’ll give you Michael Moore’s phone number if you would like to call him."  So I called his company and I protested.  I said, "No one has been in touch with me.  No has informed me about this."   

So they told me that Michael Moore would call me that afternoon.  That was six months ago.  He never called.  Finally, a week ago, he finally called me because he was at a social gathering in Beverly Hills and a friend of mine gave him my phone number.  He called and he was very embarrassed and self-conscious. 

He said, "I’ve made a terrible mistake. I grew up on your books and I love 'Fahrenheit 451' and I didn’t realize what I was doing and I shouldn’t have done it." 

I said, "I wish you would give me my title back, because it’s not fair, what you’re doing." He said he would call me again this week and he never has. 

MITCHELL:  Well, what would fair compensation be for taking or appropriating the title “Fahrenheit 451”? 

BRADBURY: The fair thing would be giving the title back.  That’s all I want.  My book is being taught in thousands of schools across the United States. In 20 different cities in recent months, it’s been named the book for all the population to read.  There have been productions of my play, “Fahrenheit 451,” in 30 or 40 different cities.

The book has been around a long time.  And all I want is my title back. 

MITCHELL:  You don’t think that you should get a piece of the $21.8 million they made in the first weekend alone? 

BRADBURY:  No, I don’t care about money.  That’s not the point.  The point is that he stole something.  All I want is to have it returned. 

MITCHELL:  Certainly, all of your works have been politically conscious and this one in particular.  So what harm does it do to have this documentary use the name? 

BRADBURY: He’s putting my title on his film.  I had nothing to do with his film.  Therefore, he can’t take credit; he can’t take my name and my title and have it apply to his film.  My novel is not a political novel.  It’s an aesthetic novel; a philosophical and a sociological study in modern history.  It’s not political at all in any way yet a study of humanity and education.

MITCHELL:  Are you planning to see the movie, Mr. Bradbury? 

BRADBURY:  He hasn’t offered to show it to me.  I don’t believe I should make an effort.  He should offer to show it to me. 

MITCHELL:  So, if Michael Moore gave you a private screening of the movie, then you might reach another conclusion, or at least you would have a basis to reach a conclusion?

BRADBURY:  No, it’s too late, you see.  He should have called me six months ago.  I’m willing to see the movie, but it wouldn’t change my mind, because he stole the title. 

Hardball with Chris Matthews airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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