- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Usually, the end of litigation brings clarity, or at least resolution, to some thorny disagreement, but that’s not so for a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures brought by a charitable entity that holds Truman Capote rights. The suit, which explored rights to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, may soon be over as the Truman Capote heir is voluntarily dismissing the case. But, according to insiders, there’s been no settlement.
Capote published his novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in 1958, before it became a classic film for Paramount starring Audrey Hepburn three years later.
In 1984, Capote died.
The timing of Capote’s death was significant because under the Copyright Act of 1909, an author’s death during the initial 28-year term meant the renewal term belonged to the author’s estate. After the Supreme Court addressed this fact in a 1990 decision regarding the story that became Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Paramount and the Capote Estate entered into a new agreement. Under this deal, Paramount got a $300,000 option to purchase rights within three years to make a new movie based on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
No movie came, so the question posed by a lawsuit filed last November was whether rights had reverted back to the Truman Capote charity.
Recently, Paramount circulated a screenplay with the intention of turning it into another feature and selling it to a streaming platform. That led to an additional $20 million copyright infringement claim. In fact, in court papers filed just last week, an attorney for Capote’s heir estimated that such a film would generate somewhere between $250 million to $500 million, a wildly optimistic view that would put this comedy in Dune territory.
Meanwhile, the Truman Capote Literary Trust has been shopping a television series and reported getting seven-figure offers from multiple interested buyers. The lawsuit would clarify ownership en route to closing such a deal.
But now, on the very same day that Paramount was scheduled to make its first attempt to dismiss the $20 million copyright claim, the Capote entity has abandoned its lawsuit. An insider in the Capote camp points to the recent departure of Jim Gianopulos as head of Paramount plus the need as a charitable institution to be circumspect with resources. A re-filing hasn’t been ruled out.
Still, Paramount’s posture about retaining Breakfast at Tiffany’s remake rights hasn’t changed, and the voluntary dismissal was seen as somewhat surprising at the studio.
For now, any new Breakfast at Tiffany’s project will proceed under a legal cloud. More likely, if either side decided to really move forward, a sequel to this lawsuit might come first.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day