Original ‘Road House’ Screenwriter Sues Amazon MGM Studios for Copyright Infringement, Alleges Studio Used AI During Strikes

Hill’s lawsuit alleges Amazon resorted to using AI to try to meet November filming deadline

Jake Gyllenhaal in "Road House" (Amazon MGM Studios)

R. Lance Hill, the screenwriter behind the original 1989 “Road House” movie, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Amazon MGM Studios and United Artists for alleged copyright infringement, TheWrap has learned.

Hill, under his pen name David Lee Henry, wrote the initial 1986 screenplay on spec that the first “Road House” was based on. The initial 1989 cult classic was distributed by United Artists. “Thereafter, United Artists produced and exploited the 1989 motion picture, ‘Road House’ (the ‘1989 Film’) based on the Screenplay,” the lawsuit says.

Hill alleged that Amazon disregarded his ability, under copyright law, to reclaim the rights to his old screenplay with the making of this reboot where Jake Gyllenhaal plays an ex-UFC fighter struggling to leave his violent past.

The lawsuit also states that Hill properly filed the necessary petition with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2021, requesting his original copyright be returned to him after its scheduled expiration date this past November.

“On November 11, 2023, the Screenplay’s copyright thereby duly reverted to Hill under the Copyright Act,” the lawsuit says. “Yet, in contravention of the Act’s fundamental authorial termination right, [the] Defendants refused to acknowledge Hill’s statutory termination.”

Amazon, which now controls the rights to “Road House” through its takeover of MGM’s film catalog, allegedly dismissed his copyright petitions and proceeded full steam ahead with plans to wrap up the remake prior to the copyright’s expiration, per the lawsuit.

“Instead, Defendants steamrolled ahead with the production of a remake of the 1989 Film (the ‘2024 Remake’) derived from Hill’s Screenplay,” the lawsuit added.

Also of note, Hill’s lawsuit alleges that Amazon resorted to using artificial intelligence technology during last year’s SAG-AFTRA strike to try meeting the November 10th, 2023 deadline to complete filming.

“Hill is further informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Defendants went so far as to take extreme measures to try to meet this November 10, 2023 deadline, at considerable additional cost, including by resorting to the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) during the 2023 strike of the Screen Actor’s Guild (“SAG”) to replicate the voices of the 2024 Remake’s actors for purposes of ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement), all in knowing violation of the collective bargaining agreements of both SAG and the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) to which Defendants were signatories,” the lawsuit said.

Yet, despite these claimed efforts, the suit said shooting ran past the copyright cutoff date by about two months, wrapping up this January. “Defendants’ unauthorized 2024 Remake was not completed until late January 2024, well after the effective date of Hill’s statutory termination,” the lawsuit said.

Hill is seeking declaratory relief and a court order halting the release of the remake, currently set for March 21 on Amazon Prime Video.

“The lawsuit filed by R. Lance Hill regarding ‘Road House’ today is completely without merit and numerous allegations are categorically false,” according to an Amazon spokesperson. “The film does not use any AI in place of actors’ voices. We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims.”

According to an insider with knowledge of the situation, there is no AI utilized in the film to recreate actors’ voices. If at any time AI was utilized, it would have been by the filmmakers (while editing early cuts of the film) and not the studio as they controlled the editorial.

Addtionally, the insider added that the studio expressly instructed the filmmakers to not use AI in this movie. Filmmakers were advised by the studio to take everything out of the cut of the film, either AI or non-SAG AFTRA actors to complete the film. The studios believes the copyright termination is effective and they will vigorously contest their rights in the property.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the news.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.


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