Actor/director Warren Beatty's long legal battle with Tribune Company over the rights to the character Dick Tracy revealed an interesting kernel of information on what might be Beatty's next film project -- a documentary on the comic strip detective. Tribune Co. tried to claim the Dick Tracy rights as an asset in a recent bankruptcy hearing, but Beatty holds the rights to the character as long as he makes "productive use" of the property. It's a sweet deal for Beatty and an absolute nightmare for Tribune Co., as the wording of the agreement doesn't seem to put any time table on when the agreement expires.

This isn't the first time Tribune has tried to wrest control of their character from Beatty. in 2005, Beatty announced that he was interested in pursuing a Dick Tracy sequel/reboot/remake/cash grab with the apparent intention of getting Tribune off his back over the rights. It's been almost five years since that announcement, and obviously it hasn't happened yet, however it doesn't seem to be stopping Beatty from making up new, seemingly off-the-cuff Dick Tracy projects to thwart Tribune's demands.

IMDb reports that Beatty is "currently working on a documentary", which is the first time I think anyone has heard of such a project. Personally, I don't believe it. If Beatty is pressed to produce evidence of this planned documentary to the courts (or Tribune), he's sitting on a pile of behind-the-scenes footage from his original 1990 film. He could easily throw together some lazy attempt at proof by assembling a rough cut patched together from old set interviews, outtakes, and set photos.

I think the character is deserving of a good documentary, but I'd be shocked if this isn't anything but a last minute ploy from Warren Beatty to keep Dick Tracy for himself. I'd like to see a worthwhile filmmaker examine Tracy creator Chester Gould and delve into the massive pop culture phenomenon caused by Dick Tracy back in the 30's and 40's. There's some good material to be mined here for a doc (including the legal battle), and if Beatty is on the level, then I look forward to seeing the finished film.