The Oscar-nominated film The Shape of Water has been hit with a plagiarism lawsuit, which alleges that its fantastical plot about a romance between a mysterious river creature and a cleaning woman was taken directly from an American stage play.
On Wednesday a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles accusing The Shape of Water’s director Guillermo del Toro, its producer Daniel Kraus and Fox Search light of “brazenly [copying] the story, characters and themes” of a 1969 play by late Pulitzer-winning author Paul Zindel.
Paul Zindel’s son David Zindel alleges that his father’s 1969 Let Me Hear You Whisper also features an inter-specie relationship between a lonely working woman and an aquatic animal who she helps escape from the lab after learning about plans to have him killed.
In the 1969 play, the creature is a dolphin whereas the movie it is a half-river, half-man creature.
Zindel’s attorney Marc Toberoff wrote in the complaint: "Despite the glaring similarities between the Play and the obviously derivative Picture, Defendants never bothered to seek or obtain a customary license from Plaintiff of motion picture and ancillary rights to the Play, nor did Defendants credit Zindel on the Picture," writes attorney Marc Toberoff in the complaint.
Reports say the lawsuit listed more than 60 resemblances between the play and the movie.
It also went on to cite an interview with Kraus and del Toro in which they stated that American novelist, Kraus, created the storyline about the janitor who kidnaps an amphibian.
Fox Searchlight, however, denied the claims calling them “baseless (and) wholly without merit.”
In a statement the studio said the lawsuit seemed time “to coincide with the Academy Ward voting cycle in order to pressure our studio to quickly settle”.
“Instead, we will vigorously defend ourselves and, by extension, this groundbreaking and original film,” the statement said.
The Shape of Water has already won a best picture Golden Globe and numerous acting and craft awards from film critics’ groups and has a leading 13 Oscar nominations at the 4 March Academy Awards ceremony, including nods for best picture and best director.