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OCTOBER SKY Author Homer Hickam Files Suit Against Universal Over Stage Musical Rights

Homer Hickam (Photo: Twitter)

Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam, whose best-selling memoir "Rocket Boys" was adapted into the 1999 film "October Sky" by Universal Pictures, seeks damages in excess of 20 million dollars in a law suit filed against the film company on June 2nd at Los Angeles Superior Court.

The dispute is over who holds the stage rights to the story.

Published in 1998, "Rocket Boys" told the story of how young Hickam, growing up in the West Virginia mining town of Coalwood, developed an interest in rocket science after seeing the Russian satellite Sputnik in flight. His passion eventually turned into a career that kept him from a life in the coal mines.

Universal filmed the story with the title "October Sky," an anagram of "Rocket Boys," and the book was republished under the new title.

With a book by Aaron Thielen and a score by Michael Mahler, director Rachel Rockwell's world premiere production the stage musical OCTOBER SKY opened in August of 2015 at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

With Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman added to the creative team as co-bookwriter, the show has been announced for a September 10th - October 23rd, 2016 production at San Diego's The Old Globe.

The suit states, "Under the terms of their agreement, Hickam granted Universal his life story rights, only insofar as the story was reflected in 'Rocket Boys,'... and that such life rights were for one motion picture, the aforementioned 'October Sky.'"

"Approximately a decade after 'October Sky' was released," it continues, "Hickam developed and produced the story 'Rocket Boys' into a live stage musical with the approval of Universal, which was well-received by audiences and critics during its various developmental stages, and which was always aimed at eventual performances on Broadway, the International stage and national tours."

"After witnessing the success of the 'Rocket Boys' musical, as well as sending its executives to view and experience Hickam's musical first hand, Universal decided to create and produce its own musical called 'October Sky,' purportedly based upon the motion picture and Hickam's memoir."

It further states, "Universal has demanded that Hickam cease and desist in developing , producing and performing the 'Rocket Boys' musical and accept a complete gag order that would punish him if he ever said a word about Universal's wrongful and improper conduct."

The story was first reported by Deadline, which quotes a Universal spokesman as saying they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

Hickam has stated on Twitter, "I can't comment on the lawsuit but thank you all for your good wishes."

Click here to read the full lawsuit.


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