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Nearly 20 years after the Whoopi Goldberg comedy Sister Act hit theaters, Walt Disney Co. and Sony Pictures are being sued by a woman who claims her autobiography was the inspiration for the film and the subsequent stage musical.
The plaintiff is Delois Blakely, representing herself with allegations of breach of contract, misappropriation of likeness, unjust enrichment and other claims.
According to the complaint, Blakely was a “young, Black, singing nun serving the street people and youths of Harlem,” who published the autobiography, The Harlem Street Nun in 1987.
That year, she reached out to others in the industry with a three-page synopsis, including Tri Star Pictures producer Cynthia Bowles. The film executive is said to have mailed a letter back expressing interest in movie rights.
Later, according to the claims, producer Scott Rudin took a Sister Act project from Tri-Star to Disney and went on to executive produce a film that made more than $230 million at the box office, as well as producing a sequel and a Broadway musical. The studios declined to comment.
Blakely, who was profiled in the New York Times in 2003 as Harlem’s Queen Mother, lays out the similarities, and is now demanding an injunction against further violation of her publicity rights and equitable relief.
What took her 20 years to file this claim? Only God knows.
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