As a July 11 trial start date gets closer, the stakes in a legal battle over a proposed Lynyrd Skynyrd biopic are headed toward double trouble and the heart of American democracy, the film’s producer said today.
“This law suit proves that Freedom of Speech in the United States of America is officially under attack by an increasingly litigious culture that breeds utter contempt for art — and that should indeed worry everyone attempting to make a living in the entertainment industry today,” Cleopatra Films boss Brian Perera said Tuesday of the court clash over Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash.
With a flurry of filings being made public in the past few days after District Court Judge Robert Sweet tossed an attempt by remaining members of the iconic Southern rock band and the estates of Ronnie Van Zant and others for a preliminary injunction, Perera and Cleopatra want to put the suit in the spotlight before the two-day trial starts next month.
Filed on May 5 by Ronnie Van Zant Inc, Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, the representatives of the Allen Collins Trust and the estate of Steven Gaines, the complaint essentially argues that Cleopatra and ex-Skynyrd drummer and crash survivor Artimus Pyle cannot make Street Survivors because it violates a 1988 consent order over use of the band’s name and the tragic plane crash of October 20, 1977.
Cleopatra’s response has been to claim that Pyle, who is a signatory to the consent order, is no longer directly involved with the writing of the Jared Cohn helmed project. The division of Cleopatra Records that distributed A Street Cat Named Bob this year also says Pyle’s story and the story of the crash has been well known for years, the movie won’t have any Skynyrd music in it and the consent order doesn’t actually affect them.
“Plaintiffs bring only a single claim against Cleopatra: they allege that the film violates a settlement agreement in a 1988 civil action to which Cleopatra was not a Party,” noted Cleopatra attorney Evan Mandel in a May 11 opposition to the preliminary injunction (read it here). “The settlement agreement was memorialized in a Consent Decree,” the NYC based Mandel Bhandari LLP lawyer adds. “Plaintiffs’ sole claim is as meritless as its request for a preliminary injunction.”
Deadline first reported exclusively on casting for the film back in April, just a few weeks before shooting on the $1.3 million0budgeted Street Survivors was set to start.
Pauline McTernan and Richard Haddad of NYC’s Otterboug P.C. and Sandor Frankel of Frankel & Adams represent the plaintiffs.