The filmmaker and the distributors were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed on Dec. 24 in federal court in Washington, D.C., by Oscar Colvin, Jr. and his son Torrrance J. Colvin. The Colvins assert that the defendants have infringed on the copyright of their screenplay “Freedom,” citing what they allege are extensive similarities to Tarantino’s Oscar-winning script for “Django Unchained.”
The movie was directed by Tarantino and starred Jamie Foxx as the titular Django Freeman along with Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. “Django Unchained,” set in the late 1850s in the Old West and antebellum South, has elements of spaghetti Westerns and serves as a tribute to Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film “Django.”
In the film, Django joins forces with German bounty hunter King Schultz (Waltz), who promises to free him in exchange for his help in collecting bounties on three outlaws. Waltz won a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance and the film — distributed domestically by TWC and internationally by Columbia — was a major commercial success with $425 million in worldwide grosses.
The suit alleges that the Corbins registered “Freedom” with the Writers Guild of America in 2004 and took it into CAA and the William Morris Agency. The Corbins also placed the script on Triggerstreet’s script web site.
“There are a plethora of similarities between ‘Freedom’ and ‘Django Unchained,'” the suit asserts. “Defendants would call them coincidences, however, the intentional use of our work is neither an
accident nor coincidence.”
Referring to the “Freedom” script, the suit said, “Before Django Freeman, there was an escaped slave named Jackson Freeman who desired to purchase his family’s freedom from a malevolent plantation owner.”
The suit also alleges, “Defendant Tarantino claims to have based his screenplay on Sergio Corbucci’s ‘Django,’ but the truth is that there are far more similarities between ‘Freedom’ and ‘Django Unchained’ than between ‘Django’ and ‘Django Unchained.'”
The suit asserts that a key plot point, in which Django returns to free his wife (played by Washington) from her plantation owner (DiCaprio), was taken from “Freedom”: “Returning to the hellish realm of the South to purchase the freedom of his loved one(s) with the assistance of a Caucasian in the South is the uniquely original beat that links ‘Django Unchained’ to ‘Freedom.'”
The suit asks for compensatory damages of more than “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
A rep for Columbia’s parent Sony Pictures declined to comment. Reps for Tarantino and TWC did not respond to requests for comment.
The suit was filed the day before TWC released Tarantino’s Western “The Hateful Eight.”