LOS ANGELES (CN) – In a $10 million lawsuit, novelist Tess Gerritsen claims that Warner Bros. based its “Gravity” movie on her space novel of the same name, and owes her a share of profits from the Oscar-winning blockbuster.
Terry Gerritsen, known as Tess, claims that in 1999 a New Line Cinema subsidiary purchased the film rights to her “Gravity” novel. New Line is a defendant, as is Warner Bros. subsidiary Katja Motion Picture Corp.
Katja paid Gerritsen $1 million for rights to the book, which, like the movie, features a heroine medical doctor-cum-astronaut who is stranded in space, the author says in the federal lawsuit.
Gerritsen claims that her contract promised her a $500,000 production bonus, a 2.5 percent cut of net profits and the screen credit “based on the book by Terry Gerritsen.”
“This case concerns the damages suffered by Gerritsen because defendants failed and continue to fail to acknowledge that the film was based on a novel she wrote,” states the 11-page complaint, which includes 22 pages of exhibits.
“Gerritsen should have received a production bonus, a percentage of the net proceeds, and a source material credit on the screen and all paid advertising for the film, but she did not.”
During the movie’s development, Gerritsen says, the producers never told her that Alfonso Cuarón was attached to direct the alleged adaptation of her work. Gerritsen claims she delivered additional material from her book, including a scene similar to the bravado opening of the movie, where Sandra Bullock’s character Dr. Ryan Stone is “left drifting in her space suit, alone and untethered, seeking the means to return to earth.”
Cuarón wrote the screenplay for “Gravity” with his son Jonas Cuarón. The Cuaróns in 2009 granted rights to the project to Warner Bros., after the studio acquired New Line and Katja, according to the complaint.
Gerritsen claims her contract guarantees that New Line and Katja must honor the agreement she signed with Katja 15 years ago.
“Katja should have objected to the production by WB of a film based on a literary property technically owned by Katja, but did not, because Katja is controlled by WB and WB is effectively the owner of the motion picture rights to the book,” the lawsuit states.
Gerritsen’s novel features the protagonist Emma Watson, described on the author’s website as “a brilliant research physician” who embarks on a mission to “study living beings in space.”
A synopsis on the website appears to make clear some differences between the novel and movie.
“Once aboard the space station, however, things start to go terribly wrong,” the synopsis states. “A culture of single-celled organisms known as Archaeons, gathered from the deep sea, is to be monitored in the microgravity of space. The true and lethal nature of this experiment has not been revealed to NASA. In space, the cells rapidly multiply and soon begin to infect the crew – with agonizing and deadly results.”
According to movie industry website Deadline, Gerritsen had previously asserted that the two works had little in common, except their titles.
The author wants a jury to award her $10 million in damages and the $500,000 production bonus.
“Gravity” bagged seven Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards, with Alfonso Cuarón picking up a best director. The box office juggernaut made $700 million, according to the lawsuit.
Gerritsen is represented by Glen Kulik with Kulik Gottesman & Siegel of Sherman Oaks.
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