July 24, 2024

Amazon and MGM’s buzzy Road House remake, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor, is coming up against more than its share of behind-the-scenes drama this week. A lawsuit filed on behalf of R. Lance Hill (aka David Lee Henry), the writer of the original Road House, accuses Amazon of defying their contract by using generative AI to complete the new movie.

At the same time, Doug Liman, the remake’s director, is boycotting Road House‘s release. That led Gyllenhaal to issue a public statement defending Amazon’s treatment of the film.

Liman, the superstar director behind The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Edge of Tomorrow, is reportedly unsatisfied that Amazon is sending Road House directly to streaming rather than giving it a theatrical release ahead of a streaming premiere. The company employed that method to some success last April with Ben Affleck’s Air, and Liman is itching for the same treatment.

But Road House was always meant for a streaming premiere, with that having been the plan for several years now. A report in Varietyfrom earlier this month detailed the conversations surrounding a theatrical-vs.-streaming debut. The studios offered Gyllenhaal and Liman two budgetary options: make the film for $60 million and it gets a theatrical release; or make the film for $85 million and it goes directly to Amazon Prime.

“They all took the money,” a “knowledgeable source” told Variety. “Amazon and Liman declined comment,” the report noted.

Liman announced in a Deadline op-ed that he’s boycotting the film’s SXSW premiere, hoping to strong-arm Amazon into a theatrical release. Gyllenhaal was moved to comment on the controversy in a recent interview with Total Film.

“I adore Doug’s tenacity, and I think he is advocating for filmmakers, and film in the cinema, and theatrical releases,” Gyllenhaal explained diplomatically. “But, I mean, Amazon was always clear that it was streaming. I just want as many people to see it as possible. And I think we’re living in a world that’s changing in how we see and watch movies, and how they’re made.”

Gyllenhaal continued: “What’s clear to me, and what I loved so much, was [Liman’s] deep love for this movie, and his pride at how much he cares for it, how good he feels it is, and how much people should see it.”

But Liman isn’t the only creative upset with Amazon’s handling of the remake. Original screenwriter Hill filed a lawsuit against Amazon and MGM for allegedly defying their contract.

Hill’s suit claims the studio gave itself a self-imposed deadline to finish Road House which was put in jeopardy by last summer’s writer’s and actor’s strikes. Hill’s suit alleges that Amazon employed generative artificial intelligence to replicate the voices of some actors in Liman’s movie. That would have violated the collective bargaining agreements in place at the time between SAG-AFTRA and the Director’s Guild of America.

Hill is also alleging that Amazon’s remake of Road House is simply a retread of his original screenplay, which he wrote of his own volition without any studio involvement before MGM picked it up in 1989, rather than a new story inspired by his script.

“In summary, both (Hill’s) [original] Screenplay and the 2024 Remake tell the story of Dalton, a master of various fighting disciplines who is hired to be a bouncer at a bar crawling with troublemakers,” Marc Toberoff, one of Hill’s attorneys, explained in the complaint. “With a body covered in scars but in peak physical condition, Dalton exudes a studied nature when it comes to his work, a sort of Art of War approach to being a bouncer.”

Hill (credited as David Lee Henry) has a “story by” credit on Liman’s remake, as well as a separate credit, “Based on the motion picture Road House, Screenplay by David Lee Henry.” However, he insists Amazon infringed upon his copyright to the original screenplay

Hill seeks a court order that his 1986 screenplay does not constitute a “work-made-for-hire,” that his termination notice is valid, and that Amazon and MGM Studios infringed on his copyright to his screenplay. Hill moved to recover the copyright from MGM in November 2021, but the studios still insist his work was “work made-for-hire,” copyrights for which are exempt from return under the U.S. Copyright Act.

Studios have long struggled with how to compensate original crew members of their most lucrative franchises. Hill’s lawsuit is similar to one filed recently by an original Top Gun star who alleges his likeness was improperly used in its 2022 sequel, Maverick.

In a statement rebutting Hill’s claims, Amazon and MGM called his allegations “completely without merit” and alleged that “numerous allegations are categorically false.”

“The film does not use any AI in place of actors’ voices,” the statement continued. “We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims.”

Hill is seeking to halt Amazon’s release of the remake. Road House is currently set to debut March 25 on Amazon Prime.

Copyright 2024 A360 Media. All rights reserved.

This story was originally published February 28, 2024, 9:55 AM.

source: star-telegram

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