Screenwriter Sues Gary Oldman, NBCUniversal Over “Darkest Hour”

When fact-based screenplays collide...

"Darkest Hour"
A scene from "Darkest Hour."
Universal Pictures

In 2018, Gary Oldman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Winston Churchill in the film Darkest Hour. The critical response to Oldman’s performance was largely rapturous. At IndieWire, David Ehrlich wrote that “for the first time, the star has found a character who’s larger than life itself; no matter how much hot air Oldman breathes into this balloon, it’s never going to pop.”

Two years later, however, Oldman and Darkest Hour face a lawsuit over the screenplay for the film. At Deadline, Dominic Patten writes that Ben Kaplan has filed a lawsuit against several parties involved in Darkest Hour. These include, Patten writes, “Oldman, NBCUniversal Media, producer and Oldman manager Douglas Urbanski, Working Title Film Group, Focus Features and Oldman’s APA agent Jim Osborne.”

Kaplan, a screenwriter who wrote a screenplay entitled Churchill, has filed the lawsuit and argued that elements of his own work wound up in the final version of Darkest Hour. As Patten notes, Darkest Hour screenwriter Anthony McCarten was not named in the suit.

One obvious challenge here: proving that two screenplays inspired by the same real-life historical figure aren’t just drawing from the same real-life events. The article does note that there are some “very specific” areas of similarity between the two screenplays.

The complaint was filed last week in Los Angeles, and seeks a jury trial. Whether one will emerge once the Superior Court has reached a decision remains to be seen, however.

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