LOS ANGELES (CN) - Filmmakers copied "protectable elements" of Edward Abbey's novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang" for a movie about environmental activists who plot to blow up a dam, Abbey's widow claims in court.
Clarke Abbey sued writer-director Kelly Reichardt, screenwriter Jonathan Raymond and various producers in Federal Court, claiming the film "Night Moves," now in production, infringes on Abbey's copyrighted 1970s novel.
Reichardt is set to direct the indie thriller from a screenplay she co-wrote with Raymond, according to Abbey and Edward R. Pressman Film Corp., the company she granted exclusive movie-making rights to the novel.
Art house auteur Todd Haynes is producing the movie, and Dakota Fanning and Jesse Eisenberg have reportedly been in talks to star in the film.
Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang," published in 1975, follows a group of environmental terrorists who conspire to blow up a dam. The iconic novel inspired actual environmental groups such as Earth First!, according to the lawsuit.
Now decades later, the American author's widow says Reichardt and Raymond lifted the plot and characters from the novel without permission.
"By way of example only, both works feature the targeting of a dam for destruction by means of ammonium fertilizer-laden boats," according to the eight-page lawsuit. "In the novel, the principal bomb-maker is a beer-guzzling veteran who served overseas as a Green Beret, where he acquired his knowledge of explosives. The bomb-maker in 'Night Moves' is a beer-guzzling veteran who served overseas as a U.S. Marine, where he acquired his knowledge of explosives. Both the novel and 'Night Moves' also feature a 20-something woman who starts out as a companion of another member of the group but develops a sexual relationship with the bomb making veteran, despite his initial objections to her participation in the group's illegal activities."
Clarke Abbey says internet bloggers have discussed the similarities between the planned movie and the novel, and have "commented about the film's misappropriation of the novel's plot."
"Upon information and belief, Raymond and Reichardt copied protectable elements of the novel in writing 'Night Moves' and, since they had no authorization from plaintiffs to do so, they thereby infringed the exclusive rights in the novel afforded to plaintiffs under the Copyright Act," the plaintiffs claim.
Abbey and Edward R. Pressman Film Corp. are represented by Michael Niborski with Pryor Cashman. They want a judge to award them unspecified damages and block the defendants from making the film.
In addition to Reichardt and Raymond, named defendants are: Film Science, Maybach Film Productions, RT Features, UTA Independent Film Group (a division of United Talent Agency), The Match Factory GmbH, RT Features CEO Rodrigo Teixeira and producers Anish Savjani, Neil Kopp, Christopher Maybach, Saerem Kim, Saemi Kim, Lourenco Sant Anna, Alejandro De Leon, Todd Haynes and Larry Fessenden.
Neither Film Science nor a representative for Haynes immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.