NEW YORK (Reuters) - Action movie star Sylvester Stallone is accused in a lawsuit of copying another writer’s screenplay to make “The Expendables,” a movie about mercenaries hired to defeat a military dictator.
The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday by writer Marcus Webb, who said the screenplay for “The Expendables” is “strikingly similar and in some places identical” to his work entitled “The Cordoba Caper.”
Webb seeks unspecified damages for copyright infringement and an order from the court stopping further infringement in any sequel by Stallone, his credited co-author David Callaham, Millennium Films, its Nu Image Films unit and Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation.
Stallone’s publicist, Michelle Bega, declined to comment.
Millennium Films’ general counsel, Frank DeMartini, said the company had not been served with the lawsuit, and he declined further comment. A spokeswoman for Lions Gate was not immediately available for comment.
“The Expendables” — produced by Millennium and Nu Image and distributed by Lions Gate — was released worldwide on August 13, 2010. It featured a cameo appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger after he left his post as California governor, along with other aging action heroes Stallone and Jet Li.
According to the lawsuit, Webb registered “The Cordoba Caper” screenplay and a short story with the same title and plot with the U.S. Copyright Office in June 2006. Between 2006 and 2009, the lawsuit said, the screenplay was made widely available by Webb for consideration in the movie industry.
“There can be no dispute that Stallone and/or Callaham had access to and copied protectable elements of the screenplay,” the lawsuit said.
“The Cordoba Caper” tells the story of a team of elite, highly-trained mercenaries hired to defeat General Garza, a rogue army general of a small Latin American country,” the lawsuit said.
The court document provides details of the ways in which Webb sees similarities between his screenplay and the released movie, including the opening “with a hostage rescue at sea, off a foreign coast, which has nothing to do with the main plot.”
It said the main villain in both is a General Garza, a military dictator with a notorious human rights record.
Webb said he has been deprived of benefits from the screenplay such as potential earnings from the production, distribution and performance of “The Expendables.”
"Expendables 2," a sequel to "The Expendables," is due for release on August 17, 2012. (See here).
The case is Marcus Webb v Sylvester Stallone, et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-7517.
Editing by Steve Orlofsky