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Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Road House’ facing AI lawsuit, director drama ahead of debut

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The Jake Gyllenhaal-starring “Road House” remake is facing two major hurdles ahead of its release.

This week, screenwriter R. Lance Hill, filed a lawsuit against MGM Studios and its parent company, Amazon, alleging copyright infringement and the use of AI to skirt a deadline in violation of the new actors’ and directors’ guild deals.

In documents obtained by Fox News Digital filed in U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles, Hill and his attorney, Marc Toberoff, allege that Amazon and MGM ignored his right under the Copyright Act to recover copyright of his original “Road House” script.

Hill, who also uses the pen name David Lee Henry, wrote the screenplay “on spec,” which means of his own initiative, and then transferred his copyright to the studio United Artists in 1986, who produced the finished film in 1989. 

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Patrick Swayze starred in the original, released in 1989. It was successful upon its original release and gained cult status over the years thanks to cable television.

Under the Copyright Act, Hill was allowed to regain ownership of his screenplay by Nov. 11, 2023, and he says he began the process in late 2021 to get his rights back from United Artists, which was folded into MGM in 2023.

But the suit alleges that Amazon, which owns the rights to “Road House” through its acquisition of MGM’s film library, ignored Hill’s copyright claim and “steamrolled ahead with the production of a remake,” which was completed after the November deadline.

According to the filing, Amazon “repeatedly set and emphasized November 10, 2023 as their self-imposed deadline to complete the 2024 Remake — the very day before Hill’s Termination was to take effect on November 11, 2023. This is no coincidence.”

patrick swayze in road house

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“Hill is further informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Defendants went so far as to take extreme measures to try to meet this November 10, 2023 deadline, at considerable additional cost, including by resorting to the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) during the 2023 strike of the Screen Actor’s Guild (“SAG”) to replicate the voices of the 2024 Remake’s actors for purposes of ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement), all in knowing violation of the collective bargaining agreements of both SAG and the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) to which Defendants were signatories. These are not the actions of companies that truly believe that Hill’s Termination is ineffective.” 

The remake was completed in January, two months after the deadline, according to the suit.

Hill is seeking recovery of his copyright to the screenplay and a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the release of the remake.

An Amazon MGM Studios spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement, “The lawsuit filed by R. Lance Hill regarding ‘Road House today’ is completely without merit and numerous allegations are categorically false. The film does not use any AI in place of actors’ voices. We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims.”

Billboard of Jake Gyllenhaal's film Road House

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Hill’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, sent a statement on behalf of his client.

“‘Road House’ has become a worldwide cult phenomenon since I wrote it as a spec script in 1986. But recently, when I recovered my copyright, MGM/Amazon tried to hand-waive me away,” Hill stated. 

Toberoff added his own comment: “The asset base of all major entertainment studios is content, without it they have nothing. It is time they respect the fundamental rights and artistry of creators on whose sweat and toil their empires are based.”

AI expert Marva Bailer said the lawsuit still has a lot of unknowns that will be delineated in court, should it go that far.

Close up of Jake Gyllenhaal

“So, this is really a question of timeline versus technology,” Bailer told Fox News Digital. “We don’t have all the information from both sides of the story.”

She continued, “It’s likely they potentially could have used AI as a rough cut, because if you look at the timeline, potentially the lead actors were actually on strike. So, they might have committed to the film or the project and they themselves were able to do all these rough cuts. And so they might have used AI, but they might not have because that’s expensive to use AI. Is that really an area that they would really need to use it, pre-release?”

Bailer also noted that AI is not necessarily the primary issue at hand in the legal case but more the ever-changing approach to how films are currently released. 

“I guess [AI is] grabbing the attention, and it’s striking a nerve because it’s definitely the unknown. But these new models for economy and fan engagement literally are unknown as well,” she said. “And so you need to have some type of trust in your fans and the studios. The studios are testing new immersive experiences for activation right at the point of the release and then throughout the life cycle. And that’s really what we need to be watching. And people need to be open to this participation.”

Poster of Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House

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In his statement, Hill also addressed the recent battle between the “Road House” remake’s director, Doug Liman, and Amazon/MGM over the lack of a theatrical release for the film.

“I’m elated that Doug Liman’s ‘Road House’ remake is considered to be his and Jake Gyllenhaal’s best work to date. Yet MGM/Amazon seems intent on burying ‘Road House’ (2024) in a streaming slot rather than releasing it on the big screen where great movies and movie stars belong. They might as well erect a sign out front advising TALENT BEWARE, NOT WELCOME HERE,” Hill said, via Toberoff.

In a guest column with Deadline, Liman explained that when “Road House” premieres at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival on March 8, he “won’t be attending.”

“The movie is fantastic, maybe my best, and I’m sure it will bring the house down and possibly have the audience dancing in their seats during the end credits. But I will not be there,” Liman wrote.

Doug LIman sitting in a chair holding a microphone

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He continued, “My plan had been to silently protest Amazon’s decision to stream a movie so clearly made for the big screen. But Amazon is hurting way more than just me and my film. If I don’t speak up about Amazon, who will?”

Liman said that when he signed on to direct the film, it was with MGM, which was later bought by Amazon.

“Amazon said make a great film and we will see what happens. I made a great film,” Liman said, adding he was told it was “a ‘smash hit’ – Amazon’s words, not mine, btw.”

The director contends that despite Amazon saying they were investing in theatrical releases following its purchase of MGM, “Amazon has no interest in supporting cinemas. Amazon will exclusively stream ‘Road House’ on Amazon’s Prime. Amazon asked me and the film community to trust them and their public statements about supporting cinemas, and then they turned around and are using ‘Road House’ to sell plumbing fixtures.”

Doug Liman posing on a red carpet

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“That hurts the filmmakers and stars of Road House who don’t share in the upside of a hit movie on a streaming platform,” he continued. “And they deprive Jake Gyllenhaal — who gives a career-best performance — the opportunity to be recognized come award season. But the impact goes far beyond this one movie. This could be industry shaping for decades to come.”

Jake Gyllenhaal sitting on stage

Variety reported that the situation is more complicated, with a source telling the outlet that Liman was given the choice to make the film for $60 million and have it released theatrically or take $85 million and do streaming only, allegedly choosing the second option.

In an interview with Total Film, Gyllenhaal addressed Liman’s boycott.

“I adore Doug’s tenacity, and I think he is advocating for filmmakers and film in the cinema and theatrical releases. But, I mean, Amazon was always clear that it was streaming,” he told the outlet.

Gyllenhaal continued, “I just want as many people to see it as possible. And I think we’re living in a world that’s changing in how we see and watch movies and how they’re made. What’s clear to me, and what I loved so much, was [Liman’s] deep love for this movie and his pride at how much he cares for it, how good he feels it is, and how much people should see it.”

He added, “I’ve also sat watching a film on my computer, or in different places, and been so profoundly moved. If the job of a story is to move people, I have been moved in both forms. I’m a deep lover of cinema and the theatrical release, but I also do really embrace the streaming world.”

“Road House” is to be released on Prime Video on March 21.

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