Based on past legal battles, everyone who knew anything about the history of N.W.A knew it was bound to happen once Straight Outta Compton came out in August, and today it has. In a breach of contract, copyright infringement and defamation lawsuit seeking $110 million in damages, former N.W.A manager Gerald Heller is going after NBCUniversal, director F. Gary Gray, Legendary Pictures, the screenwriters of Straight Outta Compton as well as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the estate of Eazy-E and the rest of the infamous gangsta rap group.
“The Film is littered with false statements that harm the reputation of Plaintiff and aim to ridicule and lower him in the opinion of the community and to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him,” says Heller’s complaint (read it here). The 12-claim suit filed Friday in L.A. Superior Courts says that the “sleazy manager” Jerry Heller character, played by Paul Giamatti, is made out as the villain of the movie about what was called “the world’s most dangerous group” back in the late 1980s. Heller says he never gave permission for his name or likeness to appear in the movie — and as a pivotal part of the N.W.A story, Giamatti’s Heller appears a lot.
A NBCUniversal spokesperson said they had no comment on the lawsuit. The company will have to say something in the courts eventually because Heller wants $35 million in monetary damages and $75 million in punitive and exemplary damages plus “restitution of all gains, profits and advantages” the wide range of defendants made off the movie, which has made almost $200 million worldwide since its August 11 release.
“The insidiousness of Defendants’ behavior is underscored by the fact that the Film may well become the largest globally grossing music-story based film ever,” the filing says of Straight Outta Compton. “The larger the success of the film, the greater the damages to Plaintiff, who has been and continues to be defamed, ridiculed, and robbed of his personal and financial rights to the extent that the intentional and egregious behavior of Defendants demands the imposing of punitive damages.” Heller also alleges that “a significant amount of the Film’s content” is lifted from his 2006 book Ruthless: A Memoir and screenplays that he owns.
Michael R. Shapiro of the Law Offices of Michael R. Shapiro is representing Heller in the case.