Lawsuits happen all the time in Hollywood. They've become the cost of doing business as sometimes people feel that their ideas were stolen or used without permission. However, a new lawsuit against Titanic appears to take that to the next level. A Florida man is suing for $300 million, plus one percent of royalties, for the second-biggest box office hit of all time because he claims he was the inspiration for Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack Dawson.
According to TMZ, Stephen Cummings, an ex-yacht master in Florida claims in court documents that Titanic director James Cameron learned of him via word of mouth regarding events that took place in Brevard County in the late 1980s. These word of mouth stories allegedly led Cameron to base the character of Jack Dawson in Titanic on Cummings' life. There are no specific details as to how Cummings life is mirrored in the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
However, the apparent connection to Titanic does not end there. Stephen Cummings also claims that he had relatives that were on the boat when it sank and that Cummings used to tell their story, one in which the wife survived, but the husband did not. The lawsuit claims that these stories, rather than the historical event itself, were the basis for the way the ship sinking took place in the film.
Needless to say, the lawsuit is a little bizarre. First and foremost we have the fact that Titanic has been around for more than 20 years and the lawsuit is only being filed now. There are numerous reasons why this could be. As unlikely as it seems, considering how popular a film Titanic was, maybe Stephen Cummings only recently saw the movie, and thus just recently realized how similar to his own life the film was.
Without knowing more details, it's impossible to know how much merit this suit has. It is entirely possible, even likely, that the life story of Jack Dawson as created in the film bears some resemblance to an actual person's life. The difficulty will likely be in proving that James Cameron knew anything about this person's life during the period before or during his writing of Titanic.
In addition, the fact that the sinking of the Titanic is a historic event means that writers have a great deal more freedom when creating stories about it. You don't need to pay anybody for the rights to write a movie about history. Certainly, this lawsuit will be an uphill battle, but one assumes this was realized before the suit was filed.
We'll keep our eyes on this one and let you know of any significant developments.