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'Road House' brawl: Amazon used AI to replicate actors' voices during strike, lawsuit alleges

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — Tensions over the upcoming "Road House" movie remake, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, are flaring again with the original film's screenwriter taking a legal swing at Amazon Studios.

On Tuesday, R. Lance Hill, who wrote the screenplay for the 1989 cult movie, sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and its parent, Amazon Studios, for copyright infringement, seeking declaratory relief.

Hill, who goes by the pen name David Lee Henry, alleges the Seattle e-commerce giant ignored his ability, under the U.S. Copyright Act, to reclaim the rights for his 1986 screenplay, "Roadhouse," which spawned the original movie and this year's reboot, in which Gyllenhaal portrays an ex-UFC fighter who struggles to leave his brawling days behind.

In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles, Hill alleges that he filed the necessary petition with the U.S. Copyright Office in late 2021, requesting the copyright revert back to him when United Artists' claim was due to expire this past November. United Artists released the original movie, which featured Patrick Swayze.

But Amazon, which owns the "Road House" rights through its acquisition of MGM's film library, allegedly ignored his copyright claims and plowed ahead — even taking steps to work around the SAG-AFTRA strike — to attempt to finish the movie before the copyright expired, according to the suit.

Amazon "went so far as to take extreme measures to try to meet this November 10, 2023 deadline, at considerable additional cost, including by resorting to the use of AI (artificial intelligence)" during last year's SAG-AFTRA strike, Hill's lawsuit claims. He alleges Amazon used AI to "replicate the voices" of the actors in the 2024 remake.

 

The movie was completed in January — about two months after the copyright deadline, the suit claims.

The lawsuit also alleged that the use of AI to simulate actors' voices violated provisions in collective bargaining agreements between the major studios, including Amazon, and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as well as the studio alliance contract with the Directors Guild of America.

Amazon Studios representatives did not immediately comment on Hill's suit or its claims.

The suit seeks to block distribution of the film, which is scheduled to become available March 21 on Amazon Prime Video.

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