The Shape Of Water director Guillermo del Toro has rejected claims his new movie has plagiarised the Paul Zindel play Let Me Hear You Whisper.
The son of well-known playwright Zindel filed a civil case against the filmmaker, claiming the film borrows elements of his father’s 1969 play, namely similarities in concept, characters, themes and plot points.
The Shape Of Water stars Sally Hawkins as a lonely, mute janitor who works at a top secret research facility in the 1960s, and forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
Let Me Hear You Whisper sees a female cleaner attempt to free a dolphin from a laboratory that plans to dissect the creature for scientific research.
‘We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognising it and coming to us for the rights,’ David Zindel told the Guardian.
But del Toro has responded to the allegations, telling Deadline: ‘I have never read nor seen the play. I’d never heard of this play before making The Shape Of Water, and none of my collaborators ever mentioned the play.’
The 53-year-old said he had also taken note of the timing of the copyright complaint, which was filed earlier this week – just over a week before the Oscars ceremony on 4 March in LA, where the film is up for 13 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.
‘I really cannot stomach the timing of this accusation,’ he said. ‘It’s pretty transparent what is happening here. To me, it’s actually a relief to take something from the arena of opinion into the arena of fact and law.’
Producer Daniel Kraus was also named in the lawsuit, something the director resents: ‘He has repeatedly said the he was not influenced by the play. He didn’t know the play and has not seen the play, and that is the reason we are going to court.’
He went on to further defend the film: ‘The way the play has been described, in the suit and along the way as these reports have appeared, it seems to be undoubtedly about a dolphin, and animal experimentation, about an animal being freed from a lab, and that is the end of it.
‘The Shape of Water is so many things, so many colours. It’s not about an animal, it’s about an elemental river god. These ideas are not interchangeable or equivalent; this would be tantamount to saying that E.T. would be the same story if you substituted the alien for a hamster.’
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