Basinger Instinct

Hard lessons in the art of the oral deal

Sam Goldwyn used to say that "a verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on." Last week a Los Angeles jury found differently. It ruled that actress Kim Basinger (912 Weeks, Batman) had breached an oral contract when she backed out of a commitment to star in the film Boxing Helena, and ordered her to pay $8.9 million in damages to the producers, Main Line Pictures.

Hollywood was shocked by the price but not by the verdict. "This is an oral town," notes one veteran agent, "a town of relationships." You take a lunch, you shake a hand, you make...

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