John Carpenter Sued Luc Besson For Ripping Off ‘Escape From New York’ — And Won!

Senior Editor
10.15.15 22 Comments

It would’ve been hard to watch 2012’s Lockout (produced by Luc Besson’s Europacorp) — in which an unjustly convicted prisoner played by Guy Pearce is offered his freedom in exchange for rescuing the president’s daughter from a space prison — without thinking of John Carpenter’s films Escape From New York and Escape From L.A., wherein Snake Plissken has to, respectively, rescue the president and a doomsday device from cities that have been turned into prisons.

Nonetheless, a lot of movies feel like blatant ripoffs of other movies. But John Carpenter sued, which also isn’t that rare, but the twist here is that he won.

Plagiarism must be a lot easier to prove in France, where Carpenter sued. Here’s part of the ruling, from Observatoire européen de l’audiovisuel, via ThePlaylist:

The court nevertheless noted many similarities between the two science-fiction films: both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration —despite his heroic past— who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom; he manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission. The court held that the combination of these elements, which gave the film [Escape from New York] its particular appearance and originality, had been reproduced in ‘Lock-Out’, apart from certain scenes and specific details that were only present in the first film. The difference in the location of the action and the more modern character featured in ‘Lock-Out’ was not enough to differentiate the two films.

Europacorop was ordered to pay 50,000 Euros to the rights owner, 20,000 to Carpenter and 10,000 to his co-screenwriter, Nick Castle.

One clue as to why Carpenter might have cared, and not simply taken Lockout‘s existence as the highest form of flattery, is that Carpenter is the executive producer on an upcoming Escape From New York remake. And he doesn’t need copies (or at least, other copies) floating around saturating the market.

I guess this will make Luc Besson a little more careful about who Europacorp rips off. Now, if only someone else could sue him for casting Maggie Grace.

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