Screenwriters of the world, take note: be careful what name you use for any characters that may be the definition of “slacker.” A man by the name of Troy Dyer, who attended USC with Reality Bites screenwriter Helen Childress, is suing Childress, Danny DeVito (a Bites producer), Ben Stiller (the Bites director), and more for defamation and invasion of privacy. This is because “Troy Dyer” was the name given to Ethan Hawke’s disgruntled, anti-social, insubordinate character in the 1994 film. The real Dyer claims that the film “has negatively affected his work as a financial consultant in Wisconsin.” And, guess what? The California 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the defendents are not protected by the state’s anti-SLAPP statute. From the Hollywood Reporter article by Leslie Simmons:
The “Reality Bites” defendants claimed the movie raised issues that were of public interest pertaining to the challenges facing the Generation X characters. Additionally, the commentary provided in the 10th anniversary DVD was of widespread public interest.
But the trial court and 2nd District disagreed.
“Certainly, it is beyond dispute that movies involve free speech,” the court noted. “However, not all speech in a movie is of public significance and therefore entitled to protection under the anti-SLAPP statute. The issue turns on the specific nature of the speech rather than generalities abstracted from it.”