'Drive,' Subject of a Viral Lawsuit, Still Being Litigated Five Years Later

One lawyer keeps fighting over a film he perceives as anti-Semitic.
Richard Foreman Jr./Film District/Courtesy of Everett Collection
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive.'

Maybe it was the comical premise, but when a Michigan resident filed a lawsuit in 2011 over the Ryan Gosling-starrer Drive, practically every news outlet wrote about it. The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Guardian, Time magazine and other publications were fascinated by a woman's allegation that the trailer was misleading — Drive wasn't a chase film a la The Fast and the Furious — and her gripe that the movie supposedly promoted criminal violence against members of the Jewish faith.

As far as we can tell, no one wrote about what happened next, but surprise, the controversy is still raging in court with defendants on Friday demanding a judge stomp on the brakes.

From the time of the initial filing, the plaintiff's lawyer Martin H. Leaf hasn't experienced much success on the claim that the film has violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

A judge in Oakland, Mich. rejected plaintiff Sarah Deming's putative class action in March 2012, concluding that there was no misrepresentations of material fact even assuming the trailer contained subliminal anti-Semitism. Thereafter, the plaintiff tried to get the judge removed from the case for allegedly being anti-Semitic himself, and the dispute went to a Michigan appeals court, which on Oct. 15, 2013, handed down a decision that stated in part, "Any affirmative representations the trailer made about being a racing movie were not inaccurate; the movie does contain driving scenes... Moreover, plaintiff, contrary to her hyperbole, does not refer us to any actual violence against, or even criticism of, Jews that has resulted from the film being shown."

And yet, that was not the end of this.

After further attempts for reconsideration and a petition to the Michigan Supreme Court, Leaf this past June filed a new lawsuit in federal court. He's now representing himself. And the list of defendants has grown thanks to an alleged conspiracy. Among them: Drive director Nicolas Refn, actor Albert Brooks, Sony Pictures, Netflix, Amazon.com, Apple, Google, AMC.

Faced with a litigant that won't give up over the allegation that Drive contains anti-Semitic messages and stereotypes, the defendants recount the history of this infamous dispute and ask for dismissal based on res judicata (a matter already adjudicated), failure to state a claim, and the First Amendment. Here's the full brief in support of dismissal.