Creed is heading from the boxing ring to the legal arena.
A New Jersey man is suing the filmmakers of the Rocky sequel, including producer-star Sylvester Stallone and writer-director Ryan Coogler, alleging that they “took [his] idea and turned it into a multi-million dollar motion picture” without compensating him.
In a complaint filed Feb. 26 in Passaic County Superior Court and obtained by EW, actor and lifelong Rocky fan Jarrett Alexander claims he conceived a film about the orphaned son of Apollo Creed in 2008, then wrote the screenplay Creed: Rocky Legacy and registered it with the Writers Guild of America and the U.S. Copyright Office in 2010.
According to the lawsuit, Alexander and his associates then attempted to pitch the idea to various industry professionals, sending around the screenplay and circulating links to a promotional reel. Their efforts included lobbying Stallone via Twitter, with no response.
In 2013, news broke that MGM was developing a Creed movie, with Coogler directing and Stallone starring opposite Michael B. Jordan in the title role. Coogler has said the story was inspired by his close relationship with his father. Released last November, Creed proved to be a critical and commercial success. It received positive reviews, grossed $173 million at the worldwide box office (on a $35 million production budget), and earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for Stallone.
Alexander is suing Stallone, Coogler, MGM, New Line, Warner Bros., Chartoff-Winkler Productions, and producer Aaron Covington for misappropriation of idea, breach of implied contract, and unjust enrichment.
“This is not a copyright case,” Alexander’s attorney Kathleen Barnett Einhorn said in a statement to EW. “Mr. Alexander created the concept for Creed — including a copyrighted screenplay and pitch reel — years before the defendants’ announcement that they were developing Creed. The defendants misappropriated Mr. Alexander’s idea in developing their movie.”
MGM, Warner Bros., and New Line flatly denied the allegations.
“The claims in this lawsuit are baseless and an ill-advised attempt to profit from the work of others,” the studios said in a statement to EW. “Creed is based on characters from the Rocky films that are indisputably protected by our copyright. The incredibly talented director, writers and producers who revitalized these beloved characters and created the story for Creed deserve full credit for their originality and hard work. We will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit and hold Mr. Alexander accountable for filing it.”