Hells Angels' chief sues HBO

Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:34am EDT
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By Nellie Andreeva and Eriq Gardner

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hells Angels veteran Sonny Barger, the man who oversaw the motorcycle gang's violent crackdown on fans at the Rolling Stones' disastrous Altamont concert in 1969, is suing HBO over a drama project he claims he helped develop.

In a suit filed last week, Barger contends HBO and the producers of the motorcycle-themed drama pilot "1%" cut him out of the project and violated many of his publicity rights when he demanded changes to protect his own brand.

"1%" originally was set at the Carefree, Ariz., chapter of the Death Rangers, one of the toughest motorcycle clubs in the country, and centered on Misfit (Donal Logue), a Silicon Valley member who is sent to the troubled chapter to bring it under control.

The lawsuit comes as HBO is readying "1%" for production. The actors had motorcycle training late last week, and production on the pilot is slated to begin Friday.

In the complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, Barger says he first optioned his best-selling autobiography to 20th Century Fox for movie development. Fox then hired writer/executive producer Michael Tolkin (Robert Altman's "The Player") to write the script. Tolkin is also named in the suit.

Barger claims he also shared with Tolkin a series of novels he had been working on about a fictional motorcycle club. Together, the two pitched HBO on a motorcycle club-centered series, and HBO subsequently turned to Tolkin to create it.

However, after Barger objected to some of the elements in the pilot, HBO "refused to acknowledge the contributions or authorship" of Barger and didn't seek permission to "use or publish the name, trademark, persona or likeness of Sonny Barger for any purpose," the suit said.

Barger was given the option of serving as a consulting producer on the project but turned it down. There was also talk of his appearing in the pilot in the potentially recurring role of Chief, the oldest member of the Death Rangers, but the casting never materialized.   Continued...