An appeals court has ruled that French filmmaker Luc Besson is guilty of plagiarizing from John Carpenter’s 1981 classic “Escape From New York” and must now pay the fellow filmmaker nearly half a million dollars.
As Yahoo reports, Besson has long denied that his 2012 thriller, “Lockout,” was a copy of Carpenter’s Kurt Russell-starring actioner. In Carpenter’s film, Russell plays a former government agent who is tasked with retrieving the U.S. president from the island of Manhattan — which has been turned into a massive prison — after his plane crashes there (thanks, Air Force One, thanks a lot). In “Lockout,” Pearce is a convict sent to a giant space jail who is given the chance to win back his freedom if he can rescue the U.S. president’s daughter, who is trapped in said giant space jail.
The court ruled that Besson’s film had “massively borrowed key elements” of Carpenter’s feature.
Last year, the court ordered Besson, along with his Europacorp production company and his co-writers, to pay Carpenter, his co-writer Nick Castle and StudioCanal (the rights-holder of “Escape”) approximately 85,000 Euros. Besson immediately appealed the ruling, saying it was a “block on artistic freedom.”
The appeals court upheld the original judgment, and vastly upped the the damages to 450,000 Euros (about half a million dollars). Carpenter originally asked for 2.2 million Euros in damages (approximately $2.4 million).
In their ruling, the judges listed a long list of similarities between “Escape From New York” and “Lockout,” including heroes that “got into the prison by flying in a glider/space shuttle, had to confront inmates led by a chief with a strange right arm, found hugely important briefcases and meet a former sidekick who then dies” and “at the end (of both films the heroes) keep secret documents recovered during their mission.”
And, you know, giant jails made out of previously non-jail-like places.