On Tuesday Tess Gerritsen filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. in a Los Angeles US District Court over credit and net profit participation on the “Gravity” movie, which she says was at least partly based on her 1999 novel of the same name. Rather than the typical copyright infringement claim in many movie source disputes, Gerritsen charges the studio with breach of contract.
Her 47-page complaint asserts that in accordance with the sale of movie rights to her novel GRAVITY prior to publication in 1999 for $1 million, she is owed a production bonus of $500,000, 2.5 percent of “defined net proceeds,” and a “based on the book by Tess Gerritsen” screen and advertising credit. The original buyer of those film rights was Katja Motion Picture Corp., “a shell corporation” for and subsidiary of New Line — which in turn was acquired by Warner Bros. in 2008, which is how the studio ended up with the project.
The suit alleges that early on in the process, “writer/director Alfonso Cuaron was attached to the Gerritsen Gravity Project and worked on developing the Book into a Picture. Gerritsen was not told of this attachment at the time.” Gerritsen also said that during the film development process, she “wrote and delivered additional material that…included scenes of satellite debris colliding with the International Space Station (“ISS”), the destruction of the ISS, and the surviving female medical doctor/astronaut left drifting in her space suit, alone and untethered, seeking the means to return to earth. Her contract with Katja to included the book “and any and all versions thereof,” so “this additional written work was also owned by Katja.”
One factor that may weigh against Gerritsen’s legal claims is that she previously said there was no formal connection between the movie and her book, calling it “one of those strange coincidences, however improbable.” Her lawyer Glen Kulik of Kulik, Gottesman & Siegel tells the NYT that Gerritsen was given information in recent months that caused her to believe that Cuaron based his screenplay on her book. “We’ve since come up with some other ties through a little investigation,” Kulik told the paper.
Gerritsen’s lawsuit seeks damages of at least $10 million, as well as an accounting of net proceeds.