'The Shape Of Water' Accused Of Ripping Off Play, Sparking Copyright Lawsuit

"It came as a total shock to us"

The Oscar-nominated film "The Shape of Water," a leftist film if there ever was one, has been slapped with a copyright lawsuit just one week before the big show, where the film is predicted to at least take home an Oscar for Best Director for Guillermo Del Toro.

"The Shape of Water" has received tons of accolades throughout awards season, culminating in its 13 Oscar nominations. Being a film that glorifies bestiality and Alinskyite cruelty-masked-as-love, the film has unsurprisingly been hailed as a "masterpiece" in Hollywood circles. Despite the film's hype, its time may be up, because the "son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author says the awards contender rips off his father's work," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The son of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Zindel alleges that the makers of "The Shape of Water" ripped off his father's 1969 play called "Let Me Hear You Whisper." David Zindel, the son, claims that his father's play "also depicted a lonely cleaning woman who works at a lab, bonds with an aquatic creature and breaks him out after learning authorities planned to kill him," reports THR.

In the complaint, attorney Marc Toberoff says that the similarities between the two works are too close to ignore.

"Despite the glaring similarities between the Play and the obviously derivative Picture, Defendants never bothered to seek or obtain a customary license from Plaintiff of motion picture and ancillary rights to the Play, nor did Defendants credit Zindel on the Picture," writes Toberoff.

Could it all just be a coincidence? Zindel says no, because his father's work has not only been performed live but also taught in schools. Worse still, the film's producer, Daniel Kraus, is allegedly an "admirer" of the original work. Zindel claims Kraus most likely pitched the idea of "a janitor that kidnaps an amphibian-man from a secret government facility" to Del Toro upon learning of his desire to make his own iteration of "The Creature From the Black Lagoon."

Simply put, if the claims made by Zindel and Toberoff are proven true, then Fox Searchlight could have a serious copyright infringement problem on their hands. Not only does the complaint allege similarities in the plot, but also little details like "a decapitated cat, severed fingers and the use of the term 'vivisection.'"

The complaint also includes public comments from Zindel fans who found the film eerily similar to the original work as well. Here's Zindel's full statement from Wednesday:

My dad was a chemistry teacher before he became a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He was always so generous with his time to help and inspire students, teachers, librarians, and other writers; so it came as a total shock to us that his original work would be so blatantly and extensively taken. We are very grateful for the spontaneous outpouring on social media that first brought this injustice to our attention. This troubling matter was brought up with Fox five weeks ago but was met with inertia. The glaring similarities between the film and our father’s play are too extensive for us to ignore and so we had to act.

Fox Searchlight has called the claims "baseless," alleging that the claim occurred just before Oscar voting to force their hand into settling quickly.

“These claims from Mr. Zindel’s estate are baseless, wholly without merit and we will be filing a motion to dismiss," said Fox Searchlight in a statement. "Furthermore, the estate’s complaint seems timed to coincide with the Academy Award voting cycle in order to pressure our studio to quickly settle. Instead, we will vigorously defend ourselves and, by extension, this groundbreaking and original film.”

Del Toro emphatically denies the allegations, saying he never saw the play.

“The way the play has been described, in the suit and along the way as these reports have appeared, it seems to be undoubtedly about a dolphin, and animal experimentation, about an animal being freed from a lab, and that is the end of it,” Del Toro said. “The Shape of Water is so many things, so many colors. It’s not about an animal, it’s about an elemental river god. These ideas are not interchangeable or equivalent; this would be tantamount to saying that E.T. would be the same story if you substituted the alien for a hamster."

“Our story and the layers are completely and entirely complex, interwoven with Russian spies, the Cold War, female friendships that are so complex and more important than that, which are completely original. The trope of an animal being liberated could be found in anything from Project X to Splash, to Born Free and Free Willy, to Starman, to an episode of Hey Arnold or The Simpsons. You could go on and on. You could also include The Day of the Dolphin, which in fact was written two years before the play. It’s not a groundbreaking plot element. And the beauty of this movie doesn’t boil down to a plot element from a play.”

 
 
 

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