A self-published author is suing writer-director Adam McKay and Netflix for copyright infringement over their 2021 film Don’t Look Up.
In 2007, author William Collier claims to have forwarded an email containing the manuscript of his novel Stanley’s Comet to his daughter, employed at the Mosaic Media division Jimmy Miller Entertainment.
Collier contends that his novel shared various themes and story elements with Don’t Look Up, a film McKay wrote in 2019.
The lawsuit alleges that “the plot of both works is practically identical,” outlining the different aspects of the film that are consistent with the novel: “Low level scientists find a large comet that is headed straight towards Earth and is going to destroy the Earth and wipe out all humanity in a matter of time. In conveying this message to the public, the scientists go on a morning talk show (which undermines the urgency and nature of the matter) which then causes most people to be unbothered by it.
“Even the presidents and government leaders downplay the comet’s apocalyptic effect. Eventually, the comet is visible to the citizens of planet Earth and mayhem ensues as the comet is rapidly approaching.”
Released in December 2021 on Netflix, Don’t Look Up garnered four Oscar nominations, including a nod for Best Original Screenplay. However, the film also gained mixed reviews, with many criticising its use of basic dialogue and poor cinematography. The legal claim contends that McKay provided varying explanations regarding the story’s conception across several interviews.
Additionally, the lawsuit suggests that David Sirota, the co-writer, expressed astonishment at receiving a story credit, stating that his sole contribution was a casual remark about climate change made to McKay.
“McKay credited Defendant Sirota as the co-author, even though, apparently, Sirota wrote not a single word or contributed anything at all to the writing of the script, other than his off handed climate change comment,” the suit states.
Collier is asking for a minimum of $5 million in damages.