THR reports that Sylvester Stallone has filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros., accusing the studio of falsifying reports of earnings for Stallone's 1993 film Demolition Man. While it's clear that the complaint is multi-faceted and very real, it also feels like part of something bigger. Specifically, it is reminiscent of the Spinal Tap lawsuit, which promises to change a systemic problem that is so toxic, Harry Shearer has said that it affects all creators.
Consider this language from Stallone's complaint, which singles out WB while clearly marking them as part of a larger, corrupt system:
“The motion picture studios are notoriously greedy. This one involves outright and obviously intentional dishonesty perpetrated against an international iconic talent. Here, WB decided it just wasn’t going to account to Rogue Marble on the Film. WB just sat on the money owed to Rogue Marble for years and told itself, without any justification, that Rogue Marble was not owed any profits. When a representative of Rogue Marble asked for an accounting, WB balked and then sent a bogus letter asserting the Film was $66,926,628 unrecouped. When challenged about this false accounting, it made a double-talk excuse, then prepared an actual profit participation statement for the same reporting period, and sent a check for $2,820,000 because the Film had in fact recouped its deficit.”
Those are fighting words, and this is a major lawsuit against one of the biggest studios in the world, for whom he has worked many times in his career. Their alleged mistreatment of Stallone - specifically, their miscommunication of funds owed him from his deal (15-17.5 % of Demolition Man's defined gross) is not something that seems worth the time and effort for a man as successful as Stallone.
Again, it feels much more like a Spinal Tap-esque rage against the machine, one that - if the allegations are true - I wholeheartedly support. I'm not a film actor, but I have worked in the entertainment industry since 1992. I have worked for companies, and in entire industries, where abuse of the artist was the status quo, where people who loved their job and wanted to keep it had to report their 60-hour work weeks as 30 hours - so that their employers would not be required to give them insurance.
Again, that doesn't make me an expert, But the idea that established, comfortable artists who can afford to do so, are taking this moment to make a stand for their rights and those of their peers, is something that I find both plausible and laudable.