'Mockingbird' play producer sues Harper Lee's estate
Author Harper Lee smiles during a ceremony honoring the four new members of the Alabama Academy of Honor, at the state Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., Aug. 20, 2007. (AP / Rob Carr, File)
The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2018 5:12PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 17, 2018 5:25PM EDT
NEW YORK -- The producer of the Broadway production of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" has filed a countersuit against the executor of the late author's estate which challenged screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Scott Rudin's production company, Rudinplay, filed the lawsuit in Manhattan on Monday demanding $10 million from Lee's estate for damages and threatening to cancel the play scheduled to open in December.
"Investors are not willing to invest millions of dollars when a cloud exits," the lawsuit claims.
Lee's estate filed a federal lawsuit last month in Alabama over the play, arguing that Sorkin's script wrongly alters Atticus Finch and other characters from the book.
The lawsuit, which includes a copy of a contract signed by Lee and dated about eight months before her death in February 2016, contends Sorkin's script violates the agreement by portraying Finch, the noble attorney who represents a black man wrongly accused of rape in "Mockingbird," as someone else in the play.
The suit asks a judge to enforce a section of a 2015 contract that says the play will not deviate from the spirit of Lee's novel.
Rudin insists the play is faithful to the novel and seeks to have the Alabama lawsuit dismissed.
"The Agreement did not give Ms. Lee approval rights over the script of the Play, much less did it give her right to purport to edit individual lines of dialogue," Rudin's lawsuit argues.
Tonja B. Carter, the executor of Lee's estate, released a statement on Monday saying she "had no choice but to file the lawsuit."
"It is my duty and privilege to defend the terms of Ms. Lee's agreement with Rudinplay, and I am determined to do so," Carter told The New York Times.
Sorkin has won multiple Emmys for his work on the drama series "The West Wing," and he won an Academy Award for his screenplay of "The Social Network" in 2011.
Rudin's credits include "Lady Bird," which was nominated for an Academy Award as best motion picture this year, and "Fences," which was a 2017 nominee. He won a best picture Oscar for "No Country for Old Men" in 2008.