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Old 03-15-2017, 01:27 AM   #1
Juno Styles
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Default Using similar names to celebrities in a screenplay

Just curious, if you have a character with a name that rhymes with a well known celebrity and they are doing something in the movie similar to what this person is known for -- would that be a problem in terms of legal or lawsuit potential?

Random Fake Example: you have a character named Chad Pitt and in your story he's doing something Brad Pitt might not like. I don't know, maybe like being a bad parent (this is the only thing I can think of that would piss him off since he and Angie Jolie are going through a custody battle and she's accused him of that).
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:42 AM   #2
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Default Re: Using similar names to celebrities in a screenplay

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Originally Posted by Juno Styles View Post
Just curious, if you have a character with a name that rhymes with a well known celebrity and they are doing something in the movie similar to what this person is known for -- would that be a problem in terms of legal or lawsuit potential?

Random Fake Example: you have a character named Chad Pitt and in your story he's doing something Brad Pitt might not like. I don't know, maybe like being a bad parent (this is the only thing I can think of that would piss him off since he and Angie Jolie are going through a custody battle and she's accused him of that).
I guess that would depend (at least partially) on why you were using a similar name. To use your example: If you're intentionally satirizing Brad Pitt, that's one thing. If your name just happened to sound similar, that's a something completely different. If it's the "just happened to sound similar" thing and you think it might be a problem, just change the name.
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Old 03-15-2017, 03:56 PM   #3
JoeBanks
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Default Re: Using similar names to celebrities in a screenplay

as a spec, write it however best tells the story. i'd argue in favor of using the actual celebrity at the spec stage. if it ever did sell, the relevant legal department will tell you what has to be changed to make it non-libelous
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Old 03-17-2017, 03:37 PM   #4
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Default Re: Using similar names to celebrities in a screenplay

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Originally Posted by JoeBanks View Post
as a spec, write it however best tells the story. i'd argue in favor of using the actual celebrity at the spec stage. if it ever did sell, the relevant legal department will tell you what has to be changed to make it non-libelous

This. Even that random throwaway character who needs a name for some reason... like a one-scene court case witness whose name is "Pam Wilson" or whatnot...

The studio has a staff that goes through and checks every name to see if it can be tied to a limited number of real people. If there's only 6 Pam Wilsons in the US they make you change it.

So you either have Dan Smith type names that hundreds of people have- or Claudette McGnorf names that nobody has.

Luckily that's not binding on the spec as it's being read.
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Old 03-17-2017, 03:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Using similar names to celebrities in a screenplay

PS: Anything is possible with the right negotiation. There's apparently one and only one poor woman named Marla Singer... the name of the drugged out sex fiend and thief in fight club.

I heard they had to make and arrangement with her to use the name in the movie and avoid a defamation suit. I'd have to assume it was pre-emptive money.

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