Chuck Wepner, the ex-boxer said to have inspired the Rocky Balboa character and who is the subject of the upcoming pic The Bleeder, is suing the producers of what he calls an unauthorized “copycat” film based on his life. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), claims that the defendants misused confidential information that originally was to be used for The Bleeder and ended up in American Brawler — which the plaintiffs refer to as “the stolen Wepner film.”
The lawsuit claims Wepner entered into a contract with Tollin/Robbins Productions to make The Bleeder and gave the company exclusive and unique access to the former boxer, his life, experiences and insights in connection with creating a movie about him.
“As this process began, defendant Mary Aloe approached Tollin/Robbins about providing assistance in raising financing for this film,” the suit states. “Tollin/Robbins agreed she could do so, entrusting Aloe with confidential and other proprietary information about the project, conditioned upon her accepting and abiding by the obligation not to use that information to her own advantage, nor to interfere in any way with the project. After failing to raise any significant funds and abandoning the project, however, Aloe proceeded to do exactly that, stealing plaintiffs’ script, confidential information, production materials and unique information obtained from Wepner, and intrusively and illegally interfering with not only plaintiffs’ exclusive contractual relationship with Wepner, but with other important figures in plaintiffs’ film, all to improperly make a nearly identical film that fully exploits everything she obtained in confidence.”
American Brawler producers Robert Simmons, Daniel Grodnick, Grodnik Aloe Productions and Massive Film Project also are named as defendants in the suit, which seeks a jury trial along with unspecified punitive and other damages. Tollin/Robbins is a plaintiff along with Nu Image, the sales agent on The Bleeder, which focuses on Wepner’s 1975 fight with heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, wherein Wepner endured 15 rounds before finally losing by a technical knockout. Ray Donovan star Liev Schreiber plays Wepner in a cast that also includes Noami Watts, Elizabeth Moss, Jim Gaffigan, Ron Perlman and Pooch Hall.
Attorneys Lincoln Bandlow and Patrick Hagan of Fox Rothschild are representing the plaintiffs in the case.