May 08, 2014 8:24am PT by Eriq Gardner
Elizabeth Banks Sued Over 'Walk of Shame' After Pitch Meeting (Exclusive)
Less than a week after Walk of Shame was simultaneously released in theaters and through VOD outlets, its producers have been hit with a lawsuit that claims that the indie film starring Elizabeth Banks was misappropriated from a writer's screenplay.
The plaintiff in the case is Shame on You Productions, operated by Dan Rosen, whose screen credits include The Last Supper and Freeloaders. According to the complaint filed on Wednesday in California federal court, Rosen attempted to get a screenplay called "Darci's Walk of Shame" developed seven years ago.
While idea theft cases are common, this one includes the allegation that in 2007, Rosen forwarded a draft of his screenplay to a mutual acquaintance of his and Banks' to interest her in playing the lead role. A week later, Rosen is said to have met for three hours with Banks and her husband, Max Handelman, who produces films through Brownstone Productions.
Banks and Handelman supposedly liked the screenplay but never got back to Rosen. According to the lawsuit, "Banks and Handelman retained the Screenplay, and never returned any version of it."
Rosen's company says that it also sent the screenplay out to others, but evidently the pitches went nowhere. Now it is targeting Banks, Handelman, Walk of Shame writer and director Steven Brill, Focus World, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, FilmDistrict and Lakeshore Entertainment for copyright infringement and breach of implied-in-fact contract.
The lawsuit from attorney Charles Coate details many alleged similarities between the works, including the title, large city setting and key plot sequences. Read here in full.
The suit reads: "The plot in both works follows a pretty blonde but prudent woman (a 'good girl') in her thirties living in a big city who goes through a break up with her boyfriend, commiserates with her best girlfriends (one of whom is sexual and foulmouthed), gets drunk, spends a 'one-nighter' with a younger man she just met who works as a busboy/bartender, wakes up the next morning at his place, and puts on her inappropriate outfit from the night before."
The allegation of an actual meeting with Banks, if true, is impactful for two reasons. First, under what's known as the inverse ratio rule, a high degree of access to the plaintiff's work may allow the plaintiff to prevail on a copyright claim with a lesser degree of similarity. And second, the implied contract claim means that when Rosen had his meeting with Banks and Handelman, he could be deemed as having a rightful expectation of payment if his material was later used. On the other hand, coincidences do occur, and some ideas are generic and non-protectable. If the film project came about through independent creation, the lawsuit would fail.
In response to the lawsuit, a Lakeshore spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter, "Lakeshore developed Walk of Shame independently, prior to casting Elizabeth Banks. We believe this claim is meritless." Banks and Handelman did not produce the film.
Walk of Shame has not grossed a high amount of money during its first week in theaters, but was a top-seller on iTunes upon its simultaneous release.