Jerry Heller Elaborates on Defamation Lawsuit over 'Straight Outta Compton'
Published Nov 03, 2015After filing a defamation lawsuit last week against the surviving members of N.W.A. and the makers of Straight Outta Compton, the rap group's former manager Jerry Heller is now criticizing Dr. Dre and Ice Cube in public and calling out the film's "Joe Stalin"-style revisionism.
A new interview with Rolling Stone has the music industry figure calling the film "dishonest," noting that several scenes have been blown out of proportion and are over-fictionalized. While Heller was sent scripts during the making of the movie, he didn't understand that he would be portrayed negatively until he saw the film during its Hollywood premiere. Heller only recently made the decision to sue.
"I had no idea how it was going to come out," he said. "Ice Cube has never been real fair on the things that he said to me. All you have to do is listen to 'No Vaseline,' and you see where he's coming from. I call the movie revisionist history, like something invented by Joe Stalin, just saying whatever you want. Well, I don't think that you can do that. I'm just not a victim."
Of the many issues Heller has with the film, he said that he never maliciously withheld a $75,000 cheque from Ice Cube. Though the film scene was rooted in an actual 1989 business deal that transpired in a Phoenix hotel room, he noted that the rapper had not yet signed a contract entitling him to the money. Heller said that he told Ice Cube he had to bring the papers to a lawyer before he could receive the money.
Heller elaborated: "So for him to say that I withheld the cheque, that's just being clever. Did I not give him the cheque? Yes. Did he sign the contract? No. Did he take them to his lawyer? Yes. And that's the way things were. I find nothing wrong with that. That's the way business is."
Heller also poked at the film's suggestion that he roped Dr. Dre and Ice Cube into bad contracts, reiterating that Ice Cube didn't have a contract to start off with.
A pivotal scene in the film found actor Paul Giamatti's Heller pathetically outraged during a private listening party of infamous "No Vaseline" diss track alongside the remaining members of N.W.A. The real Heller said he had heard the track early but did not listen to it with the band.
Heller seems to take the most offence to the suggestion that he was fired by Eazy-E, which he denies. Heller asserted that he was connected to the rapper on both a business and personal level until Eazy's death in 1995.
"I still think about him every day," Heller said. "He was like my son. He was a visionary. He was the greatest, and I've always believed that only he and I really understood the significance of what N.W.A was. The rest of the guys were like, 'Hey, we're going to be a big group, and we're going to make money.'"
Heller went on to note that his name has been smeared by the film. He also pointed to an L.A. Weekly piece from 2011 titled "10 Music Managers Who Fucked Over Their Clients" as proof he's got a bad rap. He maintained that he's a solid businessman, which is why he's suing for damages.
"I am as honest as honest can be," he continued. "They had lawyers. They had business managers. And Eazy had a business manager that represented the company, Lester Knispel, who has represented the Eagles, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Irving Azoff. He's a big, big business manager. To even intimate that he would be involved in something that wasn't totally honest is ridiculous."
You can read the full interview over here.
As previously reported, Heller is suing Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the estate of Eazy-E, NBC Universal and more for $35 million in compensatory damages, $75 million in punitive damages, and all profits from the film.