Scott Rudin Settles With Harper Lee Estate Over 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Adaptation

The parties stipulated to a dismissal of an ongoing lawsuit.
Léo L. Fuchs/Universal Pictures/Photofest
'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1962)

Scott Rudin's production company and the Harper Lee Estate have come to a settlement in their dispute over a theatrical adaptation of Lee's celebrated 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. On Thursday, the parties stipulated to a dismissal of the lawsuit. The development avoids the need for a trial that was scheduled to begin June 4 and allows the production to open on Broadway in November.

Tonja Carter, the representative of the Harper Lee Estate, first filed suit in Alabama with the claim that a script from Aaron Sorkin departed from the spirit of the novel, which concerns a small-town attorney named Atticus Finch who defends a black defendant amid much racial prejudice in 1930s Alabama.

Sorkin was hired after RudinPlay optioned theatrical rights just before Lee died in 2015 at the age of 89.

Carter alleged that the contract gave the Estate authority to exercise control when the play derogated from the novel. She asserted that characters were altered, the 1930s Alabama setting wasn't exactly right and the play departed from the book's depiction of the famous, fictional legal proceeding against Tom Robinson.

Rudin then filed his own lawsuit in New York. Most notably, the producer offered a courthouse preview of the play so a judge and jury could decide for themselves whether the play was faithful to the original. He then won a motion to expedite the case, and an Alabama judge assisted a quick trial by transferring Carter's case to New York.

With weeks to go before the trial, the two sides have now reached a resolution.

According to a joint statement, "On May 10, 2018, Rudinplay and the Estate of Nelle Harper Lee amicably settled ongoing litigation concerning the upcoming Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the play will be directed by Bartlett Sher and will star Jeff Daniels in the role of Atticus Finch. The production will proceed on schedule, with opening night set for December 13, 2018, at the Shubert Theater. Previews will begin on November 1, 2018."

Details of the settlement were not made public. The development also came after the New York judge denied a mysterious motion to seal a letter from the Harper Lee side. Although the letter was not submitted in court, it had something to do with medical information.

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