HBO Drama Incurs Wrath of Hell's Angels Founder
According to a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles by famed Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger, the script, concept and elements in the show were developed with his collaboration. However, the complaint contends that HBO, the White Mountain Company, and writer/producer Michael Tolkin cut him out of the project and violated many of his publicity rights when he demanded changes so as not to dilute his own brand.
HBO announced the pilot, set in the world of biker gangs, back in October (the "1%" title is a reference to a tattoo used by biker gang members to symbolize life on the fringe of American society). Barger now says he first optioned his bestselling autobiography to 20th Century Fox for movie development. Fox then hired Tolkin (Robert Altman's "The Player") to write the script. Barger claims he shared with Tolkin some of the other fiction projects he had been working on. Together, the two pitched HBO on a new series, and eventually HBO turned to Tolkin to create it.
However, after Barger objected to some of the elements in the pilot, HBO "refused to acknowledge the contributions or authorship" of Barger nor sought permission to "use or publish the name, trademark, persona or likeness of Sonny Barger for any purpose," according to the suit.
Barger wants the court to declare the "1% Script" as a joint work of Sonny Barger Prods and Tolkin, enjoin Tolkin and HBO from selling or exhibiting the program, and award compensatory damages for exploiting Barger's publicity rights.
Barger is repped by attorney Fritz Clapp.