Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro finds himself in hot water just ahead of Oscar season. The auteur was accused of plagiarizing his latest film The Shape Of Water.
Del Toro, along with Fox Searchlight, is being sued by the son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The suit claims the idea for The Shape of Water was blatantly copied.
With less than one week before Academy Awards voting ends, this is the worst possible moment for the film to run into these kinds of difficulties.
The Shape of Water tells a love story between a fish-man captured at a government laboratory and the mute cleaning lady who falls for him. Frequent del Toro creature collaborator, Doug Jones, plays the fish-man alongside British actress Sally Hawkins as his paramour. Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Shannon all co-star in the picture.
The claim against the film argues that the story was heavily influenced by, if not stolen from, Paul Zindel's 1969 play, Let Me Hear You Whisper. David Zindel claims his father's story also features a lonely cleaning woman who works at a lab, bonds with an aquatic creature, and concocts a plan to break it out of the facility once she learns it's in danger.
Fox Searchlight maintains such claims are completely baseless.
Muddying the waters further, Zindel claims his father's play is quite well-known whileThe Shape of Water producer Daniel Kraus is also a vocal fan of it.
David Zindel claims Kraus pitched the idea of basing the story in a secret government facility and focusing it on a janitor, only after learning the director was working on his own take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The complaint that is several pages present the details shared between the two works, from a decapitated cat to severed fingers, and the use of the term "vivisection." It also alleges that fans of Zindel's work have publicly commented on the similarities between the two.
"We are very grateful for the spontaneous outpouring on social media that first brought this injustice to our attention. The glaring similarities between the film and our father's play are too extensive for us to ignore and so we had to act," David Zindel said in a statement.
Fox Searchlight released its own statement on Wednesday, confirming it will file a motion for dismissal given the claim has absolutely zero grounds. The company noted the timing seemed a bit too convenient also, given how close the Oscars is.
The Shape of Water is nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards while del Toro is up for Best Director. He is widely considered to be the frontrunner for the award after scooping the Golden Globe, BAFTA, DGA, and AARP Awards in that category.