Judge Extends 'Straight Outta Compton' Lawsuit by Defamed Ex-N.W.A Manager Jerry Heller
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald rejected NBC Universal Studio's motion to dismiss the $110 million lawsuit brought by former N.W.A manager Gerald Heller, according to Deadline. Heller has until April 25 to file a second amended complaint. In October, Heller first sued "almost everyone" involved in last year's hit biopic Straight Outta Compton for defamation, claiming that Paul Giamatti portrayed him as a "sleazy manager," Deadline reported.
"Mr. Heller is clearly a sophisticated and wealthy man," Fitzgerald said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "He's written this book. They've made this movie ... in the '80s, as an old white guy, I was aware of N.W.A. As the case goes forward, Mr. Heller is going to have some real trouble here."
Judge FItzgerald supported Heller's case, saying that those involved with Straight Outta Compton "were aware that these statements were false," according to Deadline. Going forward, Heller must identify specifics in which the defendants "disregarded the truth" and how, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Read more: This Re-Cut 'Straight Outta Compton' Trailer Shows How to Make a Movie That Wins an Oscar
The defendants, which consists of NBC Universal, director F. Gary Grey, Dr. Dre and others, claimed the lawsuit is infringing on free speech, and that interpretations of what really happened are subjective, according to the Hollywood Reporter. They also noted that the film included a disclaimer that it was a dramatization of events.
The lawsuit draws on California's anti-SLAPP law, which deals with free speech and defamation. "The Film is a docudrama chronicling a decade-long story from 1986 to 1996 of the pioneering rap record company, Ruthless Records, the rise and demise of Ruthless Records' extremely successful musical group, N.W.A, and the careers and personal relationships of members of N.W.A," the anti-SLAPP motion by the defendants said in February, according to Deadline. "Plaintiff's theory that he has been defamed, or his image has been misappropriated, by the depiction of the 'Jerry Heller' character in the Film." According to Deadline, Heller and his lawyers must now identify who was responsible for Heller's depiction in the film in the amended complaint.