'Straight Outta Compton' Makers Dismiss Jerry Heller's Defamation Lawsuit
Published Feb 11, 2016Former N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller filed a $110 million defamation lawsuit against the surviving members of the rap group and the filmmakers of Straight Outta Compton late last year, citing actor Paul Giamatti's negative portrayal of him and "false and damaging" plot points. Now the defendants are demanding that portions of the suit be dropped.
The group of defendants, which includes the estate of Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and filmmaker F. Gary Gray, will lead two motions against Heller, the first of which claims that the former manager's legal threat is a "hodgepodge of conclusory allegations and subjective interpretations." A second motion claims the film itself is based on the rap crew's accusations against Heller, which he made reference to in his own memoirs.
"The 'Jerry Heller' character in the Film is not shown committing any improper or illegal actions, or even admitting that he had ever done anything improper," reads the motion. "Rather, the Film depicts criticisms articulated by others about Plaintiff, which Plaintiff's own Memoir concedes had been very publicly leveled against him ... It is impossible to conceive of a serious docudrama exploring this history that would not depict these disputes, and the First Amendment protects the right of filmmakers to tell this story."
Heller has objected to forcing Dr. Dre and Ice Cube into illegal contracts, offering a $75,000 cheque to Ice Cube, and taking Eazy-E to any "lobster brunches" during contract negotiations before being fired by the late MC. The defendants argue that such historical events are subject to interpretation, and while they express that Straight Outta Compton is an interpretation itself, they also claim "dramatization through fictionalized scenes and dialogue and compressed or out-of-time sequences are expected in such docudramas, and the Film carries an express disclaimer to this effect."
Other standard defences to defamation claims raised by the defendants read that Heller's depiction as the "bad guy" qualifies as opinion, while a "public interest exception" under California law counters alleged misappropriation of Heller's publicity rights.
Both motions from the defendants can be read in their entirety here and here.
Thanks to Billboard for the tip.