When your movie deals with real life people and events, it's not uncommon for producers to get sued over the way something is portrayed. Of course, for that to happen, people have to see the movie. The new Tom Hanks film is getting sued long before that happens. In this case, the problem is not how something from real life was copied, but allegedly not paying the guy who did the copying.
In his next film, Sully, Tom Hanks portrays Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the airline pilot who successfully ditched an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River, saving the lives of everybody on board. While Tom Hanks plays the man, Scott Heger says he was responsible for making sure that the plane properly played its part in the film, and that the producers have refused to pay him for doing so. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Heger is suing Warner Bros., Kiki Tree Pictures, and producer Tim Moore for breach of oral contract, fraud, and labor code violations.
In the complaint, Scott Heger says he reached an oral agreement with Tim Moore to act as the film's "ariel coordinator" in order to be sure that the planes used in the film performed as they were needed. Heger also arranged with Blair Adhesive to procure the necessary planes. Warner Bros. apparently refused to pay Heger for his services due to the lack of a written contract, and claimed Heger's services were part of the larger agreement with Blair. Heger says he and Moore had verbally agreed that these services were in addition to those contracts. The lawsuit asks for $250,000 in compensation, as well as punitive damages, as Heger claims producers threatened to blacklist him if he filed suit.
A major component of the lawsuit appears to be that Heger's work was vital to the film, as the plane essentially acts as an "inanimate main character." While the language may be something of a stretch, there's really no way to argue that the plane is not of vital importance in a movie about a plane crash.
Verbal contracts are legally binding, however, the difficulty comes in proving that they existed. Without any sort of record, it often comes down to two parties claiming that the same conversation meant different things.
While some of the people involved in making Sully may or may not have acted heroically, the film is still one about a hero. Sully hits theaters September 9.
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