Federal Judge in Harper Lee Lawsuit Gives Scott Rudin 15 Days to Film Broadway-Bound MOCKINGBIRD

By: Apr. 30, 2018
Get Show Info Info
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

To Kill A Mockingbird

This week a federal court judge in New York City elevated the ongoing drama between Broadway producer Scott Rudin and the estate of late novelist, Harper Lee.

According to Law360, the court has given Rudin and the play's producers fifteen days to assemble a cast and produce a filmed version of the Broadway-bound adaptation of the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, penned by famed screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, for use in court proceedings.

As previously reported, the author's estate sued Rudin's Production Company Rudinplay over the script, claiming that it "deviates too much from the novel, and violates a contract, between Ms. Lee and the producers, which stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book." The main concern in the complaint filed in Alabama federal court has to do with the interpretation of the main character, Atticus Finch.

Lawyers for Rudinplay suggested that the cast schedules, including film and stage star, Jeff Daniels, wouldn't be able to accomodate the short time frame, but the judge insisted that it could be done.

According to the report, the Lee estate and its representatives will not have access to the filming of the play, but retain the right to object if the material seems to differ from the initial adaptation. An artistic expert working with the Lee estate will also study the Sorkin's adaptation to ensure that the story and characters remain true to the spirit of Lee's novel.

The order comes at a crucial moment in the play's development, with workshops set to begin this week, five months before the official start of rehearsals. The trial is set to begin June 4th, pending a decision by an Alabama judge overseeing the Harper estate's initial lawsuit.

Earlier this month, Rudin struck back at a lawsuit filed by the estate of Harper Lee, filing a $10 million federal countersuit against the estate in Manhattan. citing damages over the rejection of a script by award winning writer Aaron Sorkin.

The producer is seeking damages "in no event less than $10 million" over the estate's challenging the script, and threatened to cancel the production based on the initial lawsuit's impact on investor relations. The lawsuit states that the legal dispute "has rendered it impossible for the play to premiere as scheduled in December, 2018, and unless this dispute is resolved in the immediate future, the play will be canceled."

Rudin told BroadwayWorld "This adaptation by Aaron Sorkin of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a faithful adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, which has been crafted within the constraints of the agreement executed by both Harper Lee and the play's producers before Ms. Lee's death. This action undertaken by the estate of Harper Lee is an unfortunate step in a situation where there is simply artistic disagreement over the creation of a play that Ms. Lee herself wanted to see produced, and is the kind of disagreement which one expects would be worked out easily between two parties who have a mutual interest in seeing a work produced. The estate has an unfortunate history of litigious behavior and of both filing and being the recipient of numerous lawsuits, and has been the subject of considerable controversy surrounding its handling of the work of Harper Lee both during her illness and after her death. This is, unfortunately, simply another such lawsuit, the latest of many, and we believe that it is without merit. While we hope this gets resolved, if it does not, the suit will be vigorously defended."

Rudin's lawyer, Jonathan Zavin, explained that the play "does not derogate or depart from the spirit of the novel, nor alter the fundamental natures of the characters in the novel."

Jeff Daniels, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Will Pullen, Gideon Glick, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Stark Sands, Frederick Weller, Erin Wilhelmi, Dakin Matthews, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Phyllis Somerville, and Liv Rooth will star on Broadway this fall in Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin's new play, based on Harper Lee's classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

The play will be directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher. To Kill A Mockingbird, which is produced by Scott Rudin and Lincoln Center Theater (André Bishop, Producing Artistic Director), will begin previews Thursday, November 1 and open on Thursday, December 13 at a theatre to be announced. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

Based on an event that occurred in Alabama in the 1930s, Harper Lee's enduring story of racial injustice and the destruction of childhood innocence centers on one of the most beloved and admired characters in American literature, the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, to be played by Jeff Daniels. The unforgettable cast of players includes Atticus's daughter Scout (Celia Keenan-Bolger), her brother Jem (Will Pullen), their visiting friend Dill (Gideon Glick), and their mysterious neighbor, the reclusive Arthur "Boo" Radley. The other indelible residents of Maycomb, Alabama will be brought to life on stage by LaTanya Richardson Jackson (as the Finch's housekeeper, Calpurnia), Dakin Matthews (as Judge Taylor), Stark Sands (playing prosecutor Horace Gilmer), Frederick Weller and Erin Wilhelmi (as Bob Ewell and his daughter Mayella Ewell), and Gbenga Akinnagbe (playing Tom Robinson).

Written during the early stages of the Civil Rights Movement-at a time when Jim Crow laws were still in effect in many Southern states- and first published in 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" held up a mirror to the ingrained culture of racism in the Deep South. Harper Lee's debut novel was an immediate and astonishing success, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, with editions published in ten languages within a year of its release. The book, considered one of the greatest classics of modern literature, became a global phenomenon, with more than 50 million copies in print to date, second only to the Bible in the number of extant copies printed during the lifetime of the novel. "To Kill a Mockingbird" has moved readers around the world for well over half a century, with editions thus far published in over 40 languages --- including Persian, Dutch, Norwegian, Russian, Vietnamese, Armenian, Chinese, and Esperanto.