Trials & Litigation

National Enquirer funds playwriting prize to settle libel suit over Philip Seymour Hoffman coverage


Three days after Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent heroin overdose earlier this month, the 14-year-old son of his close friend, playwright David Bar Katz, discovered an article on the Internet quoting Katz as saying he had freebased cocaine with the actor the night before he died.

There was just one problem: Katz had never spoken with the National Enquirer, the publication quoting him, and says he had never seen Hoffman use drugs, reports the New York Times (reg. req.). Likewise, contrary to what the article said, he was not involved in a romantic relationship with the actor.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman. JStone / Shutterstock.com

“After I dropped the kids at school, I looked at my phone, and I’ve gotten a million calls,” Katz told the Times, and he was being followed on the street by photographers. Within hours, he had signed a libel complaint and now, less than a month later, a settlement has been reached in the case.

The exact amount the Enquirer is paying is confidential, but it will fund a $45,000 annual prize for an unpublished play for years to come, according to Katz and his legal counsel, Judd Burstein.

The 48-year-old playwright receives no personal benefit but has formed the American Playwriting Foundation to administer the prize and will sit on its selection committee along with three other writers.

The Enquirer, which says it was duped by an imposter, has retracted and is publishing a full-page ad in the Times on Wednesday. It did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

Katz says he is pleased by the prompt resolution and is now turning his attention to the individual who impersonated him when contacted by the Enquirer. The only reason the playwright hasn’t sued him yet is because he wants to be sure he has the right man, the Times reports.

“The issue was never me being outraged at being accused of being gay—we’re theater guys, who cares?” Katz said. “The issue was lying about the drugs, that I would betray my friend by telling confidences.”

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