Andrew McCarten and Stephen Sinclair, authors of the 1987 comedy Ladies Night, claim the Monty makers not only copied their play's guys-stripping-because-they-need-cash premise but also its economically depressed English setting and some of its characters.
The plaintiffs are asking for all the film's profits, including future video and TV sales--an amount that could top $300 million.
Stop us if you've heard this before.
This suit, filed in a Los Angeles Federal court, comes on the heels of two other high-profile movie plagiarism cases.
Acclaimed author Barbara Chase-Riboud recently settled her copyright-infringement suit against Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks but not before dashing the film's Oscar dreams--the lone major Academy Award nod went to Anthony Hopkins for Best Supporting Actor.
Meanwhile, a St. Louis screenwriter lost his plagiarism suit aganst Spielberg and writer Michael Crichton. The writer had alleged the Hollywood heavyweights swiped the idea for Twister from him.
Reprising his role in the Amistad case, attorney Bert Fields is representing the defense, which includes Fox Searchlight, parent company 20th Century Fox, Redwave Films, writer Simon Beaufoy and director Peter Cattaneo.
"Almost every film has these claims," Fields says. "To compare the play with this wonderful picture is like comparing the Beverly Hillbillies to Gone With the Wind. They're two totally different things." He says none of the filmmakers have ever seen Ladies Night.
Fields also questions the timing of the suit, which threatens the film's Oscar chances (it's up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Score) on March 23. "Where have they been for the last six or seven months? It's a shame to try to hurt a wonderful film like this, even if you think it was stolen."
According to plaintiffs' attorney Don Engel, the suit couldn't have been filed any sooner because his clients had to first find American counsel, then Engel had to do the necessary research.
Besides, adds Engel, "If we really wanted to hurt the film's Oscar chances, we would have rushed it and sued before the nominations were announced."
And as to similarities to the other recent copyright suits, Engel said, "This is not Amistad or Twister. I've been doing this for 40 years, and this is as solid a copyright case as I've ever seen."
To support their case, the plaintiffs have set up a Website (www.ladies-night.com), where you can read Ladies Night, the full complaint and a review from a New Zealand paper that claims Monty bares a "marked similarity" to the play.