The Oscar-nominated, critically-acclaimed film, The Shape of Water, made headlines last month for a different reason. On February 21, the estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Zindel filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Fox Searchlight, Guillermo del Toro, and others associated with the film in the United States District Court for the Central District. The Zindel estate argues that The Shape of Water, a fantasy / science fiction love story that was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, is a rip-off of a 1969 Zindel play entitled Let Me Hear You Whisper.
According to Paul Zindel's son David Zindel, there are striking similarities between the play and the film. The piece shows a lonely cleaning lady who falls in love with a water creature with advanced intelligence and begins a loving relationship. When she learns that the laboratory authorities are planning to kill the creature, she plans his escape and releases him into the sea. Additionally, there are other memorable elements the film shares with the play, such as a decapitated cat, severed fingers, and the use of the term vivisection, to name a few. The plaintiff's complaint contains 14 pages with overwhelming similarities between the play and the film.
The lawsuit also alleges that the film's producer, Daniel Kraus, who proposed the concept for the film to del Toro, is an admirer of Zindel’s work and the film’s 'idea' in the exact year of A&E production of Zindel’s Play. first broadcast on national television. The plaintiff's lawsuit further states that the defendants neither applied for a license from the plaintiff nor credited Zindel in any way.
Fox Searchlight issued a statement stating: [the] claims on Mr. Zindel's estate are unfounded, totally unfounded, and we will be filing a motion to dismiss. Additionally, the estate's complaint appears to coincide with the Oscars voting cycle to pressure our studio to come to an agreement quickly. Instead, we will vigorously defend ourselves and with it this groundbreaking and original film.
Ashley Cullins, 'The Shape of Water' Triggers Copyright Lawsuit Amid Oscar Voting, Hollywood Reporter February 21, 2018, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/shape-water-sparks-copyright-lawsuit -oscar- vote-1087249
Legal Entertainment, Oscar front-runner 'Shape of Water' accused of plagiarizing Play Forbes in 1969 (February 22, 2018), https://www.forbes.com/sites/legalentertainment/2018/02/22/oscar-front -runner-shape-of-water-accused-of-plagiarism-1969-play / # 5c2bf1881b3a
Nardine Saad & Christie D'Zurilla, Oscar nominees 'The Shape of Water' in view of LA Times copyright infringement lawsuit (February 26, 2018), http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn -shape-of-water-copyright-lawsuit-20180226-story.html
Jill Serjeant, Oscars So Scandalous: Leading Movies Hit With Backlash Reuters (26. Februar 2018), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-awards-oscars-scandal/oscars-so-scandalous-leading-movies- hit-with-backlash-idUSKCN1GA1K2
The shape of water (2017) IMDb (December 22, 2017), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5580390/
Complaint for copyright infringement & demand for jury proceedings, Zindel v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc, et al., No. 2: 18-CV-01435 (C.D. Cal. February 21, 2018).