Lawsuits connected to “Straight Outta Compton” and the locally produced drama “The Good Lie” will move forward after presiding judges in each case rejected motions to dismiss.
Former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller’s $110 million defamation lawsuit “asserts that Heller is depicted as the ‘bad-guy’ in (“Compton”) who is solely responsible for the demise of N.W.A.” Heller was portrayed in the film by Paul Giamatti.
Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, the widow of rapper Eazy-E’s, director F. Gary Gray, Universal Studios and others associated with “Straight Outta Compton” were named in the lawsuit in October that alleges trade libel, misappropriation of likeness, intentional and negligent interference with a prospective economic advantage, breach of contract, and copyright infringement.
“The defendants’ Greenberg Traurig lawyers also called Heller’s first amended complaint filed in January ‘a hodgepodge of conclusory allegations and subjective interpretations of the Film,'” Deadline reported this week out of Los Angeles, where the suit was filed. “They noted, and suggested Heller should have noticed that, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ came with a disclaimer that it is a dramatization.”
Here in Georgia, in February 2015, The Foundation for Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan Inc. and numerous individuals associated with the foundation filed suit against a number of principals involved with the the movie “The Good Lie,” which starred Reese Witherspoon and filmed partly in Atlanta.
“The Good Lie” came out in 2014 and tells the story of a family of refugees from war-torn Sudan. Witherspoon played the case worker who assists the refugees when they relocate to America. The film portrays the refugees’ harrowing escape from their home village, the struggles of life in a refugee camp and the difficult adjustment to life in America.
Jason Graham, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said his clients had a verbal agreement to be compensated for sharing their stories and were told that the foundation would benefit from charitable fundraising associated with the movie. Neither any of the individuals nor the foundation has received any compensation, he said.
“The plaintiffs were promised compensation for contributing their life stories to the script,” he said in a statement to the AJC this week. “They further were promised no film would be produced without their consent, and charitable funds and donations raised from the script and movie would be directed to the Foundation organized and operated by the Lost Boys of South Sudan.”
While “Compton” was an international smash that’s raked in more than $200 million at the box office, “The Good Lie” had a box office haul of just over $3 million. Graham has posited that “the film’s limited success at the box office might have been better if the Defendants had teamed up with the Lost Boys to promote the film as originally envisioned.”
According to the lawsuit, discussions first began in 2002, when a number of his clients worked as extras for a different movie, “Tears of the Sun.” During that time they met producer Robert Newmyer, who initiated a series of interviews during which a larger group of refugees shared their stories.
Newmyer died of a sudden heart attack in 2005 and Graham’s clients didn’t think anything would come of the script their stories had helped shape until they were contacted about serving as extras for “The Good Lie” when that movie began work here in 2013.
The suit names Newmyer’s estate as well as a number of firms and individuals associated with the project, including Alcon Entertainment, Imagine Entertainment, Good Lie Productions, Black Label Media, Big Entertainment, Outlaw productions, Outlaw partner Jeffrey Silver and screenwriter Margaret Nagle.