A female director filed a copyright infringement suit on Wednesday against M. Night Shyamalan and Apple, accusing them of bastardizing her 2013 film and re-envisioning it through a male gaze.
Francesca Gregorini wrote and directed “The Truth About Emanuel,” a psychological thriller about a woman who forms a relationship with a doll after the death of her infant. In the suit, she accuses Shyamalan of lifting elements from the film for his Apple TV Plus series “Servant.”
The show, created by Tony Basgallop, debuted in November with Shyamalan as executive producer. It also tells the story of a couple who raises a doll as their son after the death of their infant.
According to the suit, Gregorini’s story emerged from her difficulty with conceiving a child and from growing up with an absent mother. The suit alleges that the Apple TV Plus series took the same themes and filtered them through a male lens, with men who talk about a woman’s “insanity” and debate whether a nanny is “f—able.”
“If ‘Servant’ showcases anything, it is the gender arrogance and inequity still infecting Hollywood (and apparently Cupertino),” the suit alleges. “The result of this caricature of the male gaze is the utter bastardization of Ms. Gregorini’s work. It’s an apt metaphor for the real-life version of what could happen here: It takes only a few old guard Hollywood men, such as Mr. Shyamalan and Mr. Basgallop, and their new Silicon Valley partner Apple TV+, to negate the considerable achievements and life experiences of the women behind ‘Emanuel,’ and to irredeemably tarnish their work.”
Apple declined to comment on the suit.
Both the film and the TV series involve a complex relationship between the grieving mother and the nanny she hires to care for the doll. The suit enumerates many other alleged similarities, in characterization, in the lifelike appearance of the doll and in the plot, especially of the show’s first three episodes.
According to the suit, the creators of “Servant” have claimed that any resemblance is a coincidence. Shyamalan and Basgallop have said that they have not seen “The Truth About Emanuel,” the suit states.
“The Truth About Emanuel” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, and was released theatrically the following year. Since then, Gregorini has worked in TV, including directing two episodes of “Killing Eve.”
Before “Servant,” Basgallop was co-executive producer of the Epix series “Berlin Station.” The suit alleges that Gregorini’s agents pitched her as a director on the show in 2017, and sent Basgallop a link to “The Truth About Emanuel.”
The suit accuses Apple of stonewalling by referring complaints to Shyamalan’s lawyer.
The suit alleges that Shyamalan has been credibly accused of infringement before, and quotes the late Apple founder Steve Jobs as saying that the company has “always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
“Once again, it appears that the powerful men of Hollywood and Big Tech believe that appropriation of others’ intellectual property is their right,” the suit alleges.