A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed the lawsuit alleging that the makers of "The Hurt Locker" improperly used the story of a real Iraqi bomb-disposal expert in their Oscar-winning film.
Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver's entire lawsuit was thrown out by judge Jacqueline Nguyen, and Sarver was ordered to pay the attorney's fees incurred by the filmmakers defending the lawsuit.
Sarver's lawsuit initially targed a number of those involved with the film, including screenwriter Mark Boal, director Kathryn Bigelow, production company Voltage, distributor Summit Entertainment and Playboy magazine, for whom Boal wrote the article that inspired the film.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, the case was moved from New Jersey to California, and Sarver's lawyers dropped their claim against Playboy.
"[T]he value of 'The Hurt Locker' unquestionably derived from the creativity and skill of the writer, directors and producers who conceived, wrote, directed, edited and produced it," Nguyen wrote in her opinion dismissing the case.
She also wrote, "[T]he Court concludes that, even if the Will James character was based on [Sarver], no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the work was not transformative. Defendants unquestionably contributed significant distinctive and expressive content to the character of Will James."
Sarver's attorney, Todd Weglarz, said he would appeal.
Attorney Jeremiah Reynolds, who represented Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow, called the ruling "a huge victory for all filmmakers who should feel comfortable using real life events as inspiration for their films. No artist should ever be forced to create entire fictional worlds that have no basis in reality simply because they fear the threat of meritless lawsuits.”
Boal wrote "The Hurt Locker" after being embedded with a bomb disposal unit in Iraq for an article in Playboy magazine. The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
"On a certain level, I'm flattered that a real soldier saw himself in the fictional character," Boal told TheWrap shortly after the case was dismissed. "But at the same time, the character was based in a lot of different people that I talked to, and for him to claim that he was the hero of the movie definitely took something away from all the other [bomb-disposal] guys that I talked to, guys that are contributing on a daily basis."
As a veteran journalist, Boal added, he resented Sarver's contention that he used the soldier as a model and then deprived him of credit or compensation.
"I'm somebody who has spent a fair amount of time as a reporter, digging up sources, talking to sources and honoring sources," he said. "And for somebody to call that into question makes the judge's ruling that much more gratifying."