‘Gravity’ Author Tess Gerritsen Claims Warner Bros. Movie Was Based on Her Book

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Author Tess Gerritsen has filed suit against Warner Bros. claiming that the movie “Gravity” is actually based on her novel of the same name, and that she should receive screen credit and a percentage of the profits.

Like the movie, Gerritsen’s novel “Gravity,” published in 1999, features a female medical doctor/astronaut who is stranded alone on a space station after the rest of the crew is killed in a series of disasters.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, does not claim copyright infringement, the typical route for idea-theft cases, but breach of contract.

Gerritsen contends that the terms of her sale of her novel “Gravity” to Katja Motion Picture Corp., a shell company for New Line, called for her to receive a production bonus of $500,000, 2.5% of the “defined net proceeds” from the movie, and screen credit. She was paid $1 million when Katja purchased motion picture rights in March, 1999, just months before the book was published. Her suit claims that director Alfonso Cuaron was attached to the screen adaption, but she as not told of it at the time.

Some time after 2002, the suit claims, Cuaron and his son, Jonas, wrote a screenplay called “Gravity.” She claims that Warner Bros., the studio behind “Gravity,” owns the feature rights to her book after it took control of New Line in 2008.

The suit seeks damages of at least $10 million, which would include a percentage of net proceeds.

A spokesman for Warner Bros. said they had no comment.

But when the movie was released last year, Gerritsen’s fans reportedly sent her notes of congratulations on the movie, assuming that it was based on the book. Yet she said in an interview in October with the Greencastle Banner Graphic, a local Indiana paper, that the movie is a “great film, but it’s not based on my book.”

In Gerritsen’s suit, however, she contends that she even helped in the movie development process by writing in additional book material, including scenes of satellite debris colliding with the space station, the destruction of the international space station, and the surviving female astronaut drifting alone and untethered and seeking a way to return to earth.

She is represented by Glen Kulik of Kulik, Gottesman & Siegel.

Update: In a statement, a spokeswoman for Gerritson said that in February, she “received startling new information from a reliable source. She was told that at least one individual who was key to the development of the film ‘Gravity’ had also been connected to her project while it was in development, and would have been familiar with her novel.

“Ms. Gerritsen is now convinced the similarities are not merely coincidental.”

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  1. Cesar Sirvent says:

    In fact, the plot of Gravity, the film, shares many more similitudes with my short scifi story written in 1998. Coincidence?
    In spanish:
    http://www.ciencia-ficcion.com/relatos/r231.htm

  2. Jennifer says:

    She should get the production bonus if it was a term of the option contract, it’s not uncommon to have such terms in option contracts. She sounds like she has a strong case for breach of contract, based on the facts above. Therefore she should be compensated for such a breach. Whether or not a jury would agree, that would be a different story. But I think she has a strong case.

  3. jedi77 says:

    I’m not saying she may not have been cheated, but 15 years ago she was paid a million dollars for a book she wrote. How is that not enough?
    The problem is not with the courts or the contract, it’s with the indemic greed that destroys Hollywoods chances of making more movies like Gravity, ie. non franchise movies, ie. risky movies.

    • Joshua Bodwell says:

      How can you call Gerritsen getting $1 million and asking now for another $10 million on a movie that has already made well over $700 million “greedy”? $11 million is a tiny % of $700 million. So who exactly is being greedy here?

  4. harry georgatos says:

    One has to be a moron to think Hollywood doesn’t steal others peoples intellectual property and get away with not paying a cent to the rightful owner. Hollywood’s high-priced lawyers get away with robbery. These court cases always rules in favour of the studios which leads me to suspect wrongdoing and collusion between the studio and courts.

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