Luc Besson and his EuropaCorp production company are out $500,000 (or 450,000 euros) following a ruling in a French appeals court Friday that the writer/director had plagiarized John Carpenter's Escape from New York with his 2012 sci-fi actioner Lockout, Deadline reports.
The judgment, which found that Lockout “massively borrowed key elements” from Carpenter's 1981 cult classic, came down after Besson appealed an initial court ruling that ordered he and the film's co-writers and directors Stephen St. Leger and James Mather to pay Carpenter, screenwriter Nick Castle and Escape from New York rights-holder StudioCanal a measly $95,000 (or 85,000 euros). Whoops!
Carpenter sought $3.3 million in his original suit, alleging Besson (who wrote Lockout's story and co-wrote the film's script in addition to producing the film) copied his 1981 hit and its 1996 sequel Escape from L.A. with its plot about a wrongly-convicted former CIA agent (Guy Pearce) who is offered his freedom if he can successfully rescue the U.S. president's daughter from an orbiting prison that's been overrun by a group of violent inmates. Escape from New York, meanwhile, centers on Kurt Russell's Snake Plissken, a convicted bank robber and former Special Forces agent who is offered a similar deal if he can rescue the U.S. president from the island of Manhattan, which has been turned into a maximum security prison.
A spokesman for Besson told Agence France-Presse that they were “very surprised by the ruling, but the judges have spoken and we will accept their judgment.” The Fifth Element director's lawyers had previously argued that Escape from New York itself borrowed from films including George Miller's Mad Max and the 1959 Howard Hawks western Rio Bravo.
Besson's next film, the big-budget sci-fi Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, just received a huge response at San Diego Comic-Con last week. Though Carpenter hasn't directed a film since 2010's The Ward, he's currently on tour behind his album Lost Themes II.