Sunday 21 July 2019

The Shape Of Water’s producer hits out at ‘baseless’ copyright lawsuit

Lawyers for the son of Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel claimed the film ‘brazenly’ copied 1969’s Let Me Hear You Whisper.

J.Miles Dale said the lawsuit was baseless (Ian West/PA)
J.Miles Dale said the lawsuit was baseless (Ian West/PA)

By Sam Blewett, Press Association Los Angeles Correspondent

The Shape Of Water’s co-producer has defended the film against a copyright suit ahead of the Oscars.

The son of Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel has claimed the film nominated for 13 Academy Awards is “in many ways identical” to 1969’s Let Me Hear You Whisper.

But J Miles Dale on Friday said the lawsuit is “baseless” and that its timing was “opportunistic” to coincide with Oscar voting.

“It’s really baseless, if you look even a little bit into it, look at the two, the similarities are not that great,” he told the Press Association in Los Angeles.

“We’re pretty confident that it’s just going to go away and it’s pretty baseless. We’re not worried about it.

“It doesn’t worry us as much as it’s disappointing that the timing would be so opportunistic with Oscar voting beginning the next day.”

Sally Hawkins, who appears in Guillermo del Toro's The Shape Of Water (Ian West/PA)

The playwright’s son David Zindel disputed the timing of the lawsuit was to coincide with Oscars voting, saying he approached Fox after first watching the film in mid-January but was met with “inertia.”

“After weeks of Fox ignoring the overwhelming similarities, and after it was made clear Fox had no interest in finding some kind of solution, we had no choice but to enforce my dad’s copyright and protect his legacy,” he said.

He added: “Baseless? There are many people around the world who have seen or read Let Me Hear You Whisper and have posted online how upset they are that Shape used so much of dad’s play, without crediting him.”

Lawyers for Mr Zindel filed the complaint in California against director Guillermo Del Toro and Fox Searchlight last month, claiming they had “brazenly” copied the story.

Lawyer Marc Toberoff said there are at least 61 similarities, including that they are both 1960s Cold War stories regarding an unmarried janitor and her relationship with an aquatic creature in a secret laboratory.

Fans have also drawn similarities on social media.

Del Toro and Fox Searchlight denied the allegations about the Golden Globe-winning movie starring British actress Sally Hawkins.

The director told industry website Deadline: “I’d never heard of this play before making The Shape Of Water, and none of my collaborators ever mentioned the play.”

Fox Searchlight said it would “vigorously” defend the “ground-breaking and original film”.

The Shape Of Water is up for best picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday, while Hawkins is up for best actress for her performance.

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