December 08, 2011 7:12pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Sci-Fi Writer Sues James Cameron Claiming 'Avatar' Was His Idea
Filmmaker James Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment were sued Thursday by a man who claims he spent two years developing a movie that became the basis for Avatar but he has been excluded from participating in its success.
Eric Ryder filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that in 1999, he wrote a story called K.R.Z. 2068, as well as created treatments, photos, 3-D imagery and character elements for a planned movie the company was developing. The K.R.Z. project was to be an "environmentally-themed 3-D epic about a corporation's colonization and plundering of a distant moon's lush and wondrous natural setting," he alleges in a complaint obtained by THR. The story allegedly included "a corporation spy," "anthropomorphic, organically created beings populating that moon," and a relaitonship between the spy and one of the beings that culminates in the spy becoming a leader of the group's revolt against the corporation's mining practices.
Sounds a lot like the plot of Avatar. But is the highest-grossing movie of all time really a rip-off? Cameron and the producers of Avatar has been sued by many people who believe they came up with the idea for the project, and none of those cases has produced a judgment against the filmmaker. This, to our knowledge, is the first suit brought by a former employee. Ryder says he and Lightstorm had an implied agreement that the company wouldn't exploit his material unless he was compensated and credited. He says that in 2002 Lightstorm told him that the movie couldn't be made because no one would be interested in an environmentally themed science fiction film. Then Avatar came out in 2009 and made $2.8 billion worldwide.
We've reached out to Cameron's reps for comment. The suit acknowledges that Cameron says he came up with the idea for Avatar and began writing before 1999, when Ryder says he wrote K.R.Z.
The complaint contains allegations of breach of implied contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, interntional interference with prospective economic advantage and negligent interference with prospective advantage.
To read the full complaint, click here.
Correction: The original post said that Ryder was a former Lightstom employee. He never alleged that. The post has been amended.