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The Hurt Locker – About to Get Hurt?

Nominated for 9 Academy Awards, took home 6.  Timely, thought provoking, incredibly shot.  Stolen?

The Hurt Locker has been and will probably continue to be the most talked about movie of the last year, but its longevity will likely be prolonged for some less-than award-winning reasons.  If you haven’t already heard, everyone who had any involvement in the writing, producing and directing of the film is being sued by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver.  Sarver claims that Mark Boal, author of the screenplay for The Hurt Locker, adapted the work from a 2005 article on Sarver he wrote for Playboy magazine.  Sarver also claims he coined the term “The Hurt Locker.”  Short version of the claims:  The main character in Hurt Locker, Will James (portrayed by Jeremy Renner) is based on Sarver’s life.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New Jersey on March 2nd, alleges six causes of action:  right of publicity/misappropriation of name and likeness, false light/invasion of privacy, defamation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud.

For entertainment attorneys and privacy activists alike, it could be a really salacious opinion to read – issues regarding stealing one’s life story, compositing characters, the right to privacy…  It’s also fodder for the layman – in an age of identity theft it appears to be the most gruesome kind.   Forget my credit cards, you took my life story!

These things usually settle if there’s any substantial merit to the claims – even if there’s a scintilla of merit it’s an inherently precarious set of facts to argue.  Add to that a plaintiff that is a hero in a time of war and, well, I think you can do the math.  It may be a surprise to many that The Hurt Locker, despite winning best picture and endless critical accolades, has only netted 15 million to date – small numbers by today’s standards for blockbuster success.

For now, I’ll keep hoping that all that players behind the movie vs. an aggressive plaintiff’s attorney with an ostensibly just cause means the big boys will defend it and the soldier won’t give up.  We may just get a dissertation from the appellate level if all goes well, or horribly wrong, depending on your angle.

At ease.  For now.