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Jesse Eisenberg has filed a lawsuit against Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment for allegedly turning his less-than-five-minute cameo in the horror flick Camp Hell into an above-the-title star turn. The actor is using the Los Angeles Superior Court to make a point. According to the complaint, “Eisenberg is bringing this lawsuit in order to warn his fans and the public that, contrary to the manner in which Defendants are advertising the film, Eisenberg is not the star of and does not appear in a prominent role in Camp Hell.”
And oh yeah, he demands $3 million in damages, more than the budget of the film.
Eisenberg’s lawsuit starts out with a prologue worthy of the horror genre: “No good deed goes unpunished.”
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According to the lawsuit, filed by Marty Singer, Eisenberg agreed to perform for one day at minimal compensation (about $3,000) as a favor to friends, who were producing and directing the low budget film.
That happened in 2007, before Eisenberg garnered an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg, a guy who builds a website that redefines publicity and privacy before getting sued by his best friend and some Winklevii.
Eisenberg’s own friends allegedly couldn’t resist the temptation of using the actor’s newfound fame to advertise Camp Hell.
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When the DVD was released on August 9, the cover allegedly featured Eisenberg’s name in large letters above the title of the film over a large photo of Eisenberg’s face superimposed on an image of cabins in the woods. This, despite the fact that he only appears for a couple minutes in the film, about a deadly demonic infestation at a Christian bible camp.
Now, Eisenberg is alleging his right of publicity was misappropriated, saying the defendants’ use of his name and photograph exploited him for financial gain.
The California law on publicity rights bars commercial use of someone’s likeness without “prior consent.” Eisenberg’s complaint, however, is silent on the terms of his agreement to appear in the film beyond his compensation. The lawsuit struggles to live up to its billing as a dispute over publicity rights, quantum meruit, and unfair business practices. Instead, the lawsuit sometimes resembles a consumer class action, saying that the producers are “continuing to perpetrate a fraud on the public,” that Eisenberg’s fans and the public “should be protected” from false advertising, and that by misusing Eisenberg’s likeness, the producers “fraudulently induce his fans to purchase a copy of the DVD of the Picture.”
Over-hyping an actor’s screen time isn’t totally unheard of. Movies that feature actors who went on the big stardom often play up their role (even if it’s small) to sell DVDs once the actor hits it big. And in Psycho, for example, Alfred Hitchcock killed off above-the-title star Janet Leigh before the first half of the film was over. Obviously, that shock was rendered for great dramatic effect as few theatergoers went screaming for a refund. Eisenberg thinks that the Camp Hell shocker, by contrast, merely added up to one hell of a disappointment. Three million dollars to be precise.
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