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It's been a little while since we've heard of a suit claiming a big ticket film had stolen its story from a lesser known writer's work. Yet, like an ill timed New Year's Eve present, Quentin Tarantino has found himself on the business end of a lawsuit that proposes that he did just that with his script to 2012's Django Unchained.
The details of the suit were publicized yesterday in an item from Variety, which states that writers Oscar Colvin Jr. and Torrence J. Colvin had previously registered a similar sounding script with the Writer's Guild of America, entitled Freedom. In their story, escaped slave Jackson Freeman is on a quest to purchase the freedom of his family, and must endure a hellish journey in order to secure said freedom. Part of that journey is the biggest sticking point for the Colvin's lawsuit, as they specifically cite the following elements in said suit:
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".
To be fair, we can't say for sure if there's a way Quentin Tarantino would have seen this script, or even if he had that he'd steal a portion of it for his own. Then again, there's no way we can unequivocally say that he didn't. But the point is, this one story beat that's being cited as the lynchpin of the legal argument against Django Unchained sounds weak at best. In fact, if you were to write a film about an escaped slave trying to recover their family from a plantation, that's probably the way 90% of the story lines to come out of said quest would proceed. A Caucasian's help would be needed, due to the societal climate and the levels of access required to pull off such a task.
Perhaps the bigger argument against this lawsuit against the Django Unchained script is the fact that the journey to recover Django's beloved Broomhilda isn't the main thrust of the film. In fact, it's only in the second to third act that this part of the story really takes the front seat. For the initial acts of the story, we're shown not only how Django is freed, but also how he's groomed into becoming a bounty hunter equal to Dr. King Schultz himself. So instead of relying on Dr. Schultz, Django collaborates with him, rather than giving or taking orders with Dr. Schultz. Of course, this is without reading the script to Freedom, which leaves us at a disadvantage as there's no way to really tell how much of it was supposedly cribbed by Quentin Tarantino.
However, that's not up to us to decide. The courts will assuredly look over the material, and ultimately decide whether this case holds water or not. All we can really decide is whether or not to see The Hateful Eight again in 70mm or in the new digital presentation, which is currently in theaters. Here's hoping the lawsuit above can be resolved in an amicable fashion, and everyone goes home happy.