S. Victor Whitmill, the tattooist who gave boxer Mike Tyson his Maori-inspired facial tattoo, filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. that might disrupt the release of one of this summer’s biggest films. In The Hangover Part II, after another bacchanalian episode leads to a another case of amnesia, Stu (Ed Helms) wakes up with a tattoo just like Tyson’s. Whitmill is claiming copyright infringement and said in the lawsuit, as quoted by the New York Times, that he’s “never been asked for permission for, and has never consented to, the use, reproduction or creation of a derivative work based on his original tattoo.”
On Friday, Warner Bros. responded in court, saying that any delay in the film’s release would represent an enormous financial burden, and that Whitmill’s claim has no legal precedent. The studio is also relying on the ‘”fair use” defense, claiming that their treatment of the famous tattoo is a form of parody. But Whitmill’s case might be bolstered by a statement from Tyson, who appears in both Hangover films, agreeing that “all artwork, sketches and drawings related to my tattoo and any photographs of my tattoo are property” of Whitmill.
Tyson, it turns out, was initially unaware of the film’s tattoo gag, Helms told EW at last week’s Hollywood premiere: “His reaction to the tattoo is in the movie because they did not prep him or me beforehand. As his arrival on set was imminent, it became clear that no one had told him about the tattoo bit, and I was actually worried he’d be mad at me and the switch would flip, But he was so cool about it. He is misunderstood. He’s like the nicest man. He couldn’t be cooler so it was a little anti-climactic.”
(Reporting by Carrie Bell)