Universal and writer James DeMonaco were accused of idea theft the same day “Purge: Anarchy” opened in theaters
Screenwriter Douglas Jordan-Benel filed a lawsuit against the studio, writer and director James DeMonaco, and United Talent Agency (to name a few), claiming they stole his idea for last year’s Ethan Hawke horror breakout, “The Purge.”
According to the documents filed in court on Thursday, the concept at the base of the franchise about a faux Utopian society that devolves into a lawless madness once a year was lifted directly from an original screenplay Jordan-Benel submitted in 2011 to David Kramer and Emereson Davis at UTA called “Settler’s Day.”
The lawsuit claims Davis eventually “passed” on the script in July 2013, saying he “had a difficult time buying into the premise of Settler’s Day.”
On June 7, 2013, “The Purge” hit theaters and Jordan-Benel claims the film included “the same core copyrightable expression as Plaintiff’s Screenplay in addition to numerous other similarities in the selection and arrangement of coyrightable and non-copyrightable elements.”
The lawsuit goes on to claim a wide array of similarities between exist between DeMonaco’s “Purge” and Jordan-Benel’s “Settler’s Day,” from general concepts like the two stories’ themes of socio-economic strife to more specific points like front doors with “observation slots” built into them.
The lawsuit even named professor UCLA film professor Richard Walter as a witness. After the plaintiff asked him to read both scripts, Walter said “the similarities between Settler’s Day and the Shooting Script are so striking that it is a virtual impossibility that the latter could have been created independently from the former.”
Other defendants named in the lawsuit include Blumhouse Productions, Overlord Productions, Platinum Dunes Productions and Why Not Films.
Jordan-Benel is seeking a retroactive creator’s credit on “The Purge” and at least $5 million in damages.
Walter, Universal and DeMonaco did not immediately return a request for comment.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.