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It’s a general rule of thumb that anytime anyone makes a lot of money doing something, there’s someone else out there scheming on how to get some of that money. James Cameron’s Avatar alone has been hit with multiple lawsuits over the past few years claiming he stole this or that notion for his science fiction epic, but they typically wind up dismissed. Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is in the middle of a high-profile lawsuit right now, with acclaimed author Tess Gerritsen claiming the lucrative Warner Bros. release ripped off portions of her 1999 novel of the same name. As you would expect, Warner Bros. is calling bullshit on the whole thing and trying to get the entire case dismissed, and has filed the motion to do so.
Some background info: Gerritsen’s novel was acquired by New Line subsidiary Katja (both of which are now owned by Warner Bros.) around the time it was published, and the author received a $1 million payday, along with $500,000 production bonus and a planned 2.5% of the project’s net earnings, had it ever gotten made. She was also brought in to write some additional script-specific material. Her current stance is that portions of her work were lifted and used in last year’s Gravity, such as the whole “female doctor dealing with space accidents, forced to survive on her own.” Granted, there are other aspects of the novel’s plot that have nothing to do with the movie, and Warner’s lawyers point out the film is free from “aliens, government conspiracy theories, gory medical scenes or tales of lovers reconciling.” But a spade with a different handle is still a spade.
And so, instead of solely focusing on the differences between the two works, Warner Bros. is using a different tactic for their dismissal hunt, claiming any deal made with Katja and New Line were made with those companies exclusively, and therefore have no bearing on Warner Bros. at all. New Line’s intellectual properties stayed within the company during the buyout, so they’re technically still the ones responsible for Gerritsen’s involvement. To me, that doesn’t entirely explain why the script written by Cuarón and his son Jonás Cuarón managed to be as similar as it was. Apparently the lawsuit also claims that Cuarón was formerly attached to the novel’s adaptation, but Warner Bros. lawyers say that the author “pleads almost no specifics concerning his access, if any, to her Book or how he, in fact, based the Movie on her Book or notes.”
What do you guys think about it? Obviously Gravity took in ton of money and accolades after its release, and if Gerritsen’s work was responsible for part of that success, then she needs to be granted her lost wages. Maybe somebody should put Rizzoli and Isles on this case.