The Shape Of Water Surfaces From Its Plagiarism Lawsuit Unscathed

A scene from The Shape of Water. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water is now in the clear — at least for the time being. A judge has thrown out a lawsuit accusing The Shape of Water of plagiarism.

Earlier this year, the son of playwright Paul Zindel sued Fox and the film’s creators for plagiarism, claiming del Toro had stolen the plot of The Shape of Water from his father’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper, about a cleaning lady who works in a government lab who comes across an intelligent dolphin and chooses to set it free.

In a previous interview with Deadline, del Toro swore he’d never heard of the play before and suspected the suit was filed during the Oscar nomination process in order to damage his film’s prospects.

The lawsuit didn’t appear to cause lasting damage to The Shape of Water’s Oscar campaign, of course. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Director for del Toro and Best Picture, making it the first non-adapted fantasy film to ever win the award.

Since then the court battle has continued, but according to a new report from Deadline, the judge agreed with Fox’s argument that any similarities between The Shape of Water and Let Me Hear You Whisper also reflect in any films centred around unique bonds between humans and captured animals.

Deadline writes, “Judge Percy Anderson issued a brief ruling yesterday dismissing the suit and saying that del Toro and Fox Searchlight are entitled to recover the costs of defending against the legal claim.”

This isn’t the first time The Shape of Water has faced accusations of plagiarism. Fans of a student film called The Space Between Us brought up similar concerns last year, but they were later dropped.

As far as where the idea for this film came from, del Toro says it came into being during a lunch with author Daniel Kraus, who’d long been working on a story about a creature locked in a lab and a janitor trying to bust it out.

“I don’t remember how it came up, exactly, but [del Toro] asked me what I was working on and for some reason I brought up this idea,” Kraus previously told us. “I said, ‘I’m also tinkering with this notion I’ve had forever about freaks in a lab,’ and he just lit up.”

Currently, del Toro is said to be working on a film adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, as producer and co-writer. He also might be teaming up with Robert Zemeckis to remake The Witches, also as a producer.


Comments

    I'm not really that surprised. The trope of someone falling in love with, or having enough sympathy for some creature and setting it free isn't exactly uncommon. Unless Toro's work was super close in its plot to Let Me Hear You Whisper then it's just a case of simultaneous invention at best.

      I'd add that he's been aware of Abe Sapien for ages, so the idea of one of the main characters being a fish man is not terribly surprising. Hell, in some ways I'd have been less surprised if Mignola had sued him.

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