Judge Clears ‘Gone Girl’ Creators in Copyright Dispute

CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge dismissed an author’s claim that the popular thriller novel and movie “Gone Girl” is based on her copyrighted screenplay, finding that the stories are considerably different.

“Overall, no ordinary observer could conclude that [Out of the Blue] and Gone Girl are substantially similar. Their common elements are standard in thrillers and at the level of particular expression they tell very ‘different stories,’” U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey wrote in a 33-page opinion issued Monday.

Author Leslie Weller filed a lawsuit in December against “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn, claiming she gave a copy of her screenplay “Out of the Blue” to a script consultant linked to Flynn, who then copied several elements of it.

Weller argued both stories focus on the central theme of “how well one person can really know another person.”

The author’s suit also named as defendants “Gone Girl” novel publisher Penguin Random House along with the movie producers Twentieth Century Fox and Reese Witherspoon and director David Fincher. Weller is represented by Adam Urbanczyk of Ziliak Law in Chicago.

Dismissing her complaint with prejudice, Judge Blakely wrote that Weller failed to “connect the dots.”

“She describes a chain of professional relationships—most of which have no relation to Gone Girl—and invites speculation that some unidentified intermediary, for some reason, showed Flynn—who was by then two years into her work on the novel—an unproduced screenplay by a writer whom [her agency] did not represent,” the ruling states.

The judge also found that “numerous and significant differences” between the stories “weigh against finding substantial similarity.”

Weller’s “Out of the Blue” centers on the tumultuous relationship between married couple Steve and Mary, who are involved in a car crash. After the accident, Mary wakes up and realizes she has been in a coma for seven years, gave birth to a son and was divorced by her husband, who remarried and has been taking care of their son.

Through a series of events, the audience learns Mary planned the car accident with her estranged lover in an attempt to profit off Steve’s life insurance policy and eventually attempts to kill him again. He falls back in love with her and they plan to kill his new wife. In the end, it turns out Mary’s paramour and Steve’s brother are also lovers who had been plotting Steve’s demise. Both Steve and Mary are killed.

“Gone Girl,” on the other hand, follows the troubled marriage of Amy and Nick. Amy fakes her disappearance, framing Nick for her murder. She eventually hides out at her ex-boyfriend’s lake house where she follows the media coverage of her disappearance. Her ex-boyfriend becomes controlling and possessive so she ends up killing him, claiming he had abducted her. In the end, Nick gets back together with Amy because she impregnates herself with Nick’s stored sperm sample.

Judge Blakely noted the plot differences in his ruling.

“Among other things, Gone Girl suggests that people often prefer an idealized version of life to the darker, flawed reality. In contrast, [Out of the Blue] has nothing terribly insightful to say about the human condition, and fails to provide any answer to the question ‘how well one person can really know another,’” he wrote.

Linda Steinman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who represents Flynn and Penguin Random House, expressed satisfaction with the ruling in an email Tuesday.

“Gillian Flynn and Penguin Random House were delighted by Judge Blakey’s thorough and well-reasoned decision dismissing Ms. Weller’s copyright claim,” she said.

Weller’s attorney, Urbancyzk, did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email request for comment.

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