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Former N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller wants the world to know he’s not really a “bad guy.”
In a $110 million defamation lawsuit filed on Friday against producers and others connected with Straight Outta Compton, Heller slams the hit film as falsely portraying him as responsible for the break-up of the rap act consisting of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E and others. Heller says he didn’t take advantage of the artists, didn’t withhold a $75,000 check from Ice Cube, wasn’t enjoying lobster brunches while contracts were being finalized, wasn’t fired by Eazy E and more.
After signaling the lawsuit was coming and shopping around for attorneys to represent him, Heller landed with Michael Shapiro, who was slapped with sanctions earlier this year for failing to serve the many defendants in a lawsuit over music used in The Steve Harvey Show.
The newest lawsuit sets the bar high again with quite a number of defendants including NBCUniversal, Legendary Pictures, Comptown Records, director F. Gary Gray, the artists who were the subjects of the biopic and others.
Besides the defamation claims, which can be read in full below, Heller is alleging misappropriation of likeness, tortious interference, breach of a settlement agreement and copyright infringement.
With regards to that settlement, said to have come in 1999, Heller and parties connected to Eazy E are said to have come to an agreement they “shall not make any statements, directly or indirectly in writing, orally, or in any other form, which disparage in any way the other.”
Heller also says through the lawsuit that he entered into an oral contract with various parties to collaborate on a book, and that those parties prepared at least four screenplays, with two being titled “Straight Outta Compton.” In 2006, his book was published by Simon and Schuster. The former N.W.A. manager is now asserting that this year’s film was based on those screenplays. He contends that key scenes like police forcibly detaining N.W.A. members at the studio trace back to his works.
Heller was portrayed in the film by actor Paul Giamatti.
“The insidiousness of Defendants’ behavior is underscored by the fact that the Film may become the largest globally grossing music-story based film ever,” states the complaint. “The larger the success of the film, the greater the damages to Plaintiff.”
Here’s the full complaint alleging the film failed to get his consent, didn’t give him compensation, stole his work and of course, tarnished his reputation. The defendants figure to bring a First Amendment challenge to Heller’s suit. We’ll update with any response from the defendants.
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