The Straight Outta Compton lawsuit continues as a judge rules that the movie defames manager Jerry Heller by portraying scenes in “colorful and hyperbolic” terms.
The U.S. District Judge in question, Michael Fitzgerald, is allowing the lawsuit to proceed due to the entertainment industry lawyers not consulted during the film.
The “colorful and hyperbolic” events in question are scenes where Dr. Dre accused their former manager of stealing money, of Heller withholding a check worth $75,000 from Ice Cube, and eating a lobster lunch with Eazy-E while the other members of the group suffered financially.
“The Film arguably portrays Plaintiff as an exploitive record label manager who attempted to take advantage of an unsophisticated artist by discouraging him from retaining an attorney during contract negotiations,” an opinion released last Wednesday reads according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The scenes in question that the judge decided have no basis in truth are one where Heller says to Cube that lawyers “are paid to make trouble,” when Cube wants a lawyer to look over Heller’s contract. Another scene shows Cube telling an interviewer that Heller had tried to have him sign the contract without any legal representation.
Judge Fitzgerald further wrote that “viewers would not necessarily interpret the manager’s attempts to prevent an unsophisticated artist from hiring an attorney in a favorable or even neutral light. Those attempts go beyond what is normally expected at the negotiation table, and agents who engage in such tactics may well carry a bad reputation in the industry.”
Despite his decision to continue it, the lawsuit may still fail because there is no evidence of intended malice in the scenes. But he still believes that Heller should be able to continue his suit for now, and did not dismiss it by issuing an anti-SLAPP motion.
Heller was portrayed by actor Paul Giamatti in the film and is represented as a major source of contention between the N.W.A. members.
The film’s producers dismissed the suit initially, releasing a statement that read, “The ‘Jerry Heller’ character in the film is not shown committing any improper or illegal actions, or even admitting that he had ever done anything improper.”