"Behind Enemy Lines" Suit Settled

Pilot Scott O'Grady, who claimed 20th Century Fox film was based on his story, settles out of court

By Sarah Hall Jan 22, 2004 7:55 AMTags

A Behind Enemy Lines lawsuit has been settled behind closed doors.

Twentieth Century Fox reached a confidential agreement with former U.S. Air Force pilot Scott O'Grady, who sued the studio for allegedly profiting from his story without his permission.

O'Grady claimed that the 2001 movie starring Owen Wilson as a pilot shot down on enemy turf was a thinly veiled account of his own experience.

In 1995, O'Grady was shot down over war-torn Bosnia while he was patrolling a NATO no-fly zone as part of the UN's peacekeeping mission. He spent six days hiding from Serb troops before he was rescued by the U.S. Marines.

The film Behind Enemy Lines operated along a similar story line, but unlike the positive response O'Grady received upon his return to safety, the movie was panned by critics when it hit theaters.

The movie made about $59 million during its five-month run in cinemas.

In addition to the alleged theft of his story, O'Grady was offended by the way the pilot in the film was depicted by Wilson, claiming that Wilson's portrayal damaged the commercial value of the O'Grady name.

"Captain O'Grady was also troubled that the 'hero' in the Fox movie used foul language, was portrayed as a 'hot dog' type pilot, and disobeyed orders, unlike O'Grady," stated the original complaint filed by the pilot's legal team.

O'Grady also settled a beef with Discovery Communications, parent company of the Discovery Channel, which produced a documentary about his experiences titled Behind Enemy Lines: The Scott O'Grady Story. He alleged that the network aired the program repeatedly from 1998 to 2001 backed by sponsorship from Fox as a way of promoting the movie.

O'Grady's lawyers claimed the promotion gave the impression that O'Grady endorsed the film, when in fact he did not.

A 10-person jury had been assembled to hear the case before the settlement was reached Tuesday.

O'Grady recounted an authorized version of his ordeal in the best-selling book Return with Honor, as well as in the children's book Basher Five-Two.

He also makes the rounds on the motivational-speaking circuit, using his adventure to draw in audiences.

O'Grady left the military in 2002 to pursue a master's degree in theology.

"I was shot down, hunted, shot at--but that was the most positive experience of my life," he told the West Virginia University graduating class of 1998. "There were three things that kept me going: faith, my family and my country."