If you haven't seen The Hangover Part II yet in theaters, do so now—because this may be the last time you get to see Ed Helms' character with the Mike Tyson-inspired tattoo that plays so prominently in the sequel.
That's because Warner Bros. has threatened to digitally switch out the facial design for another version to stem legal action against it by a tattoo artist who claims the studio ripped off his handywork for the movie.
Talk about a face-off.
According to a court memorandum obtained by E! News, Warner Bros.' attorneys claim ink master Victor Whitmill's proposed schedule for an expedited trial in the copyright lawsuit two months from now on Aug. 8 is, in their judgment, "extremely aggressive"—so much so that the studio is willing to take drastic action if the two parties can't reach a resolution.
"If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute, Warner Bros. does not intend to make any use of the allegedly infringing tattoo after the film ends its run in the theaters because Warner Bros. will digitally alter the film to substitute a different tattoo on Ed Helms' face," states the declaration (you can read it in full here). "As a result, there is no reason for the highly accelerated trial [Whitmill] has asked this Court to hold on Plaintiff's request for a permanent injunction."
The studio contended that digitally changing the tattoo for the theatrical release was "not a viable option due to both the amount of time the process will take and the fact that thousands of new prints would have had to be created and shipped to theaters."
Warner Bros., in turn, offered up its own proposed schedule for a federal judge in St. Louis to adopt as a "compromise" to ensure everything proceeds "in an orderly fashion so that neither party is deprived of its rights."
And the studio also made clear that the money it would have to spend to make the tattoo alteration would have been cash otherwise available for settlement of the issue.
By changing the tattoo, Warner Bros. contends that there would be no need for the court to issue a permanent injunction affecting the future distribution of the film.
Lucky for the studio, on the eve of its Memorial Day Weekend release, the court rejected the artist's request for an injunction and gave the studio the go ahead to unspool The Hangover: Part II in theaters, where it opened with $137.4 million at the box office (a bigger debut than its predecessor).
Whitmill's attorney was unavailable for comment. The case is expected to go to trial Feb. 21, 2012.