In a decision reported by Matthew Belloni in The Hollywood Reporter on Dec. 8th, 2011, a federal judge has ordered an Iraq war veteran to pay more than $180,000 in attorneys fees after he filed a right of publicity and false light lawsuit - that was subsequently dismissed - against the filmmakers behind the 2010 Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker.
Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver had claimed that The Hurt Locker was based on his life - but portrayed him in a false light and caused him significant damages. In response to Sgt Sarver's lawsuit (which was filed shortly before before the Academy Awards ceremony), the filmmakers filed their own anti-SLAPP motion against Sgt. Sarver - asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit because it sought to stifle free speech.
On Oct. 13, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Jacqueline Nguyen ruled that the entire case against director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, as well as producer-financiers Nicholas Chartier and Greg Shapiro, should be dismissed.
The court denied Sgt. Sarver his...
1) right of publicity claim: "[T]he value of The Hurt Locker unquestionably derived from the creativity, and skill, of the writers, directors, and producers... Whatever recognition or fame Plaintiff may have achieved, it had little to do with the success of the movie. Thus, Plaintiff's [right of publicity] claim is banned by the First Amendment as a matter of law."
and 2) right of privacy, false light claim: Unsupportable, as, in the court's opinion, "Will James" is presented as a war hero, which would not be a highly offensive portrayal to a reasonable person.
Unfortunately for Sgt. Sarver, that wasn't the end of it: "Under California law, winning an anti-SLAPP motion entitles the defendants to have their attorneys fees paid for by the losing plaintiff. So the filmmakers submitted their expenses to the court, which has now approved a modified total that Sarver must pay... Sources tell [The Hollywood Reporter] that at least some of The Hurt Locker defendants would have agreed to drop their requests for attorney fees in exchange for Sarver dropping the matter, but he has chosen to fight."