Friday 24 January 2020

True Detective creator denies accusations of plagiarism

True detectives: Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaghy
True detectives: Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaghy

Tim Walker

The creator of True Detective has flatly denied accusations that portions of its central character’s dialogue were plagiarised from the work of cult horror author Thomas Ligotti.

Nic Pizzolatto, the writer and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated TV crime drama, yesterday refuted claims by bloggers who suggested the pessimistic worldview of Detective Rust Cohle – played by Matthew McConaughey – was lifted from Ligotti’s writings.

The moody Cohle was given to musing, for instance, that, “[Humans] became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law.” In a 4 August blog post, Mike Davis, editor of the Lovecraft eZine, and Jon Padgett of Thomas Ligotti Online, discussed that line’s resemblance to a previous Ligotti passage, which reads: “Nature has veered into the supernatural by fabricating a creature that cannot and should not exist by natural law.”

In a densely worded statement, Pizzolatto responded: “The philosophical thoughts expressed by Rust Cohle do not represent any thought or idea unique to any one author; rather these are the philosophical tenets of a pessimistic, anti-natalist philosophy with an historic tradition including Arthur Schopenauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, E.M. Cioran, and various other philosophers, all of whom express these ideas. As an autodidact pessimist, Cohle speaks toward that philosophy with erudition and in his own words.”

HBO released a more straightforward statement, saying, “True Detective is a work of exceptional originality and the story, plot, characters and dialogue are that of Nic Pizzolatto.”

The unlikely brouhaha blew up online just as details of the drama’s hotly anticipated second series have begun to surface. As an “anthology” show, True Detective will return with an entirely new plot, setting and cast, and this week The Wrap reported that Vince Vaughn was likely to be cast its principal antagonist, with Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch and Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss in line for the roles of three very different detectives.

The second series will be set in California, and it is believed the story turns on the murder of a corrupt local government official. Pizzolatto has previously described the script as being about “hard women, bad men and the secret occult history of the United States transportation system.”

Despite the praise heaped on the show’s debut season, some critics faulted True Detective for its lack of fully realised female characters, a charge Pizzolatto answered this week in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying he had discussed the issue with his friend and fellow screenwriter Callie Khouri. “When Callie, who wrote Thelma & Louise, thinks that that's stupid criticism, I’m inclined to take her opinion over someone with a Wi-Fi connection,” he said.

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