Former NYT Columnist Sues Over Ex’s Movie

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A writer behind The New York Times advice column, The Ethicist, has gone to court over his ex-wife’s movie, which paints him out to be a “skank”-prowling adulterer.
     Starring Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley, the 2014 breakup comedy “Learning to Drive” is an adaptation of a July 2002 New Yorker article of the same title by Katha Pollitt.
     In the first-person article, Pollitt took pains to distinguish her good-guy ex-husband from the “serial philanderer” whom she describes having recently broken up with.
     Randy Cohen, the ex-husband who shares a child with Pollitt, claims that distinction is lost in the movie version. He filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday against Broad Green Pictures and Learning to Drive Movie LLC.
     A scene from the film included in the trailer shows the Katha Pollitt-inspired character describing her husband’s seven-year-itch patterns to her daughter, saying: “Instead of buying a motorcycle, Daddy decided to give adultery a spin.”
     “Where does he find these skanks?” the character also says with regard to her ex, according to the complaint.
     Cohen says the movie claims to be “based on a true story,” and names Pollitt as the author of the article on which it is based.
     The result portrays Cohen “as a mendacious, profligate philanderer,” according to the complaint.
     Cohen says those who know him or his wife “are likely to identify and recognize him as the character portrayed in the film, and to consider him to have been an unfaithful husband, and an adulterer.”
     Since the film claims “based on a true story,” Cohen says the studio cannot claim now that it is a “work of pure fiction.”
     “In changing the adulterous and philandering character from the lover to the husband, the defendants acted deliberately, or at the least with gross negligence,” the complaint states.
     Cohen notes that the “Learning to Drive” trailer, which “falsely and maliciously accuses him of adultery and sexual misconduct,” has 1.2 million online views.
     Broad Green’s website calls “Learning to Drive” a “feel-good, coming of (middle) age comedy about a mismatched pair who help each other overcome life’s road blocks.”
     “Learning to Drive” is the fourth film released by Broad Green Pictures, founded in 2012.
     Cohen and Pollitt lived together from 1981 to 1991, marrying in 1987, the year their daughter was born.
     Though Cohen was the original writer for “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times for from 1999 to 2011, he currently produces a podcast called “Person Place Thing.”
     Broad Green Pictures have not yet returned a request for comment.
     Randy Cohen is represented by David Fiege of Giskan Solotaroff and by Richard Altman.
     He seeks damages for slander.

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