Plagiarism cuts both ways. And it exists in Hollywood too. Sounds strange but it is the classic case of big fish swallowing small fish. And nobody questions the ethics (or lack of it). The strategy is simple. Plagiarise till you become famous. And when plagiarism is then uncovered, feign ignorance/plead innocence or settle the matter out-of-court. After all, mega bucks have been made and a portion of it can be paid to settle the claims of original writer. Hollywood believes in, “You are innocent till you are caught” (and then you pay and go scot-free).
James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) has been accused of plagiarism by quite a few and the list is growing. Emil Malak, a restaurateur from Vancouver BC Canada has launched a copyright infringement lawsuit as he had sent the script of his novel Terra Incognita (1996) to Cameron. He heard nothing from him except when he saw the movie and found similarities that couldn’t be mere coincidence.
If you thought this is something new and strange, don’t be surprised. Plagiarism is as old as Adam and Eve in Hollywood. Madonna was forced to pay $6,38,000 after copying ideas (without permission) from photographer Guy Bourdin for the video for her song Hollywood. It was an out-of-court settlement.
1. The Dirty Dozen (TDD, 1967) itself is believed to have been inspired by the 1957 Hindi film, Do Aankhen Barah Haath (DABH, 1957)
2. The Burning Train(1980) was plagiarised as The Runaway Train (1985)
3. Satyajit Ray’s Bankubabur Bandhu (sci-fi story 1962; script 1967) was adapted as The Alien (1967, cancelled) and plagiarised as Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977); ET The Extra Terrestrial (1982) that later inspired Koi…Mil Gaya (2004).
Steven STEALberg (sorry Spielberg) has made plagiarism an art form. The following is Speilberg’s Plagiarism Top 10 Movie List (a laSchnidler’s List):
10. BEE MOVIE. 2007 Steve Hickner – Beebylon (Henrik Wallgren & Per Umaerus script, 2002)
9. DISTURBIA. 2005 D. J. Caruso – Rear Window (Cornell Woolrich story film, 1954)
8. WHAT LIES BENEATH. 2000 Robert Zemeckis – (Peter Forde aka Gerhard Pieter Ferreira script)
7. CHICKEN RUN. 2000 Peter Lord & Nick Park – Escape From Cold Ditch (Alan Davidson, 1995)
6. AMISTAD. 1997 –Echo of Lions (Barbara Chase-Riboud’s novel, 1988)
5. TWISTER. 1996 Jan de Bont – Catch The Wind (Stephen Keller screenplay, 1989)
4. TORNADO. 1996 Noel Nossek –
3. ET: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL. 1982 – The Alien (Satyajit Ray script, 1969)
2. GREAT WHITE. 1981 Mark Princi – Catch The Wind (Stephen Kessler screenplay)
1. JAWS. 1975 Steven Spielberg –
The following plagiarism list is by other Hollywood directors:
DEATH RACE, 2008 Paul WS Anderson/Jeremy Bolt – Joust (Adam Stone script)
KINGDOMOF HEAVEN, 2005 Ridley Scott – Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade(James Reston Jr book, 2001)
FINDING NEMO. 2003 Andrew Stanton – Pierrot Le Poisson Clown (Pascal Kamina children book, 1995)
THE OMEGA CODE. 1999 James Cameron – The Omega Syndrome (Sylvia Fleener novel, 1997)
LOST IN SPACE. 1998 Stephen Hopkins – Space Family Robinson (Ib Melchior script)
THE FULL MONTY. 1997 Peter Cattaneo – Ladies Night (Andrew McCarten & Stephen Sinclair, 1987)
VOLCANO. 1997 Mick Jackson / DANTE’S PEAK. 1997 Roger Donaldson – MagmaTown (Aleksandar Skocajic script, 1994)
THE TERMINATOR. 1984 James Cameron – Soldier (Harlan Ellison story, 1964)
ALIEN. 1979 Ridley Scott – Discord In Scarlet (A E Van Vogt short story, 1939, Voyage Of The Space Beagle novel, 1950)
THE GHOST SHIP. 1943 Val Lewton – The Ghost Ship (Samuel R Golding & Norbert Faulkner play)