Ellison sues In Time to prevent release
Harlan Ellison is suing the upcoming Andrew Niccol film In Time starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy because he believes it shares far too many similarities to a 1965 story of his called Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman.
He's suing to have the film prevented from release, all the copies of the film disposed of, and all profits from the film, which would be none if it's destroyed and prevented from release.
Harlan Ellison's company, The Kilimanjaro Corporation, has raised the lawsuit which names Regency, Andrew Niccol and various other people as defendants. It says that the story, Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman, is one of the most famous and widely published science fiction stories of all time and that his company entered into an agreement with another company to create a screenplay based on the story so that it could be pitched to studios.
The lawsuit says that this project has now been put in jeopardy as the film In Time already tells a similar story.
The article from The Hollywood Reporter tells us that the similarities are not in dialogue but in the main crux of the story, indeed he even quotes leading critics who have seen In Time and then commented on how much it is like the story itself.
His issue is that both stories are set in a...
"...dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live."
Also in both stories the authority figures are known as Timekeepers and track the amount of time people have access to, and according to the article there are similarities in the universe and the story, the ones mentioned here are around the time an individual can live and the manipulation of that, as well as the type of death those that run out of time experience, and the rebellion led by a few against those controlling the time people can live. The article goes on to suggest that there are even more.
This is rather disappointing for me as the trailers I had seen, and I'm sure you'll agree on this, all looked rather intriguing and exciting, and if the lawsuit comes through then the film will be stopped and destroyed, which isn't really that helpful to anyone working on the film or the potential audience.
Yet if the In Time production did use his story as a reference it's not at all fair that that film gets released and is seen by the same audience who the official adaptation of his short story is vying for. This could potentially satisfy the audience desire to see such a film, drastically reducing the audience who will think "here's another of those films" when in fact it should have been the first.
Of course it's always difficult to prove these things and we don't really know what has happened in the background, so please do be aware that I'm just speculating, however the article does point out that Ellison's company has something most of these lawsuits don't, the fact that the original story is so high profile and has been seen by so many people.
Still, even then, it's going to be a hard one to prove, and what affect will it have on the audience?
Personally I would rather that if the lawsuit won In Time wasn't destroyed, but was delayed until after Ellison's adaptation was released, that way the audience get to see both, the production gets some chance at repayment, and the adaptation gets the first crack at the whip.
Mind you, it may not be the case at all and it might just be a high profile case of someone having the same ideas and putting them together in a similar way. I'm sure we'll hear the other side of the story soon enough.