If this year’s long-standing theatre run of “Moonrise Kingdom” represented a financial change in winds to Wes Anderson‘s other work, then the box-office windfall behind “Midnight in Paris” last year proved a hurricane to Woody Allen‘s mainstream success. Clocking in as the director’s highest-grossing film ever with $148 million made worldwide, it was a landmark for a career already rife with many, but naturally there are entities looking to carve out a piece for themselves, as the estate of one of American literature’s giants now is taking legal action against Allen for an ill-paraphrased quote.
Allen’s films are of course filled to the brim with playful literary allusions, sometimes to the detriment of the narrative itself, but up until now nothing has been made of the filmmaker’s permission in doing so. However, the humorless rightsholders behind William Faulkner‘s work have come forth with a claim saying Sony Pictures Classics had no right utilizing a quote from the writer’s “Requiem for a Nun” in the 2011 film. Also — in true gold-digger fashion — Faulkner Literary Rights have requested a jury trial, which in the end would lead to compensatory and punitive damages, legal fees and some of the movie’s profits to boot.
Looking to the film’s scene in question, it occurs when Gil Pender, the time-travelling screenwriter played by Owen Wilson, explains his exploits by saying, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” Because of this irreparable damage to the author’s career, the rightsowners claim the quote could “deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.”
A screenwriter working alongside the likes of Howard Hawks himself, it’s nevertheless irrelevant to think what Faulkner would think of the lawsuit against Allen, one in which the writer/director isn’t even listed as a defendant. Instead, what remains are the frivolous and petty efforts of a great writer’s estate to capitalize on a film’s success, and so hopefully the next action regarding the matter will be its swift removal from a courtroom docket, and not an ensuing pile-on of Legal Avengers from the estates of Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, and Ernest Hemingway. [Deadline]