Turns out that Jerry Heller, the ex-manager of the trailblazing gangsta rap group N.W.A. (“Fuck Tha Police“) was not happy with his villainous portrayal in the biopic Straight Outta Compton, which was a huge success over the summer.
Last Friday, Heller filed a $110 million defamation lawsuit against NBC Universal (who released the film) and former N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, as well as rapper Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, who helped produce the movie. In his lawsuit, Heller lists a dozen complaints, ranging from defamation, misappropriation of likeness, and copyright infringement. The lawsuit claims that “the film is littered with false statements that harm the reputation of (Heller) and aim to ridicule and lower him in the opinion of the community and to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.”
Straight Outta Compton raked in over $60 million in its opening weekend and continued to slay the box office for two weeks straight, fast becoming “the highest-grossing musical biopic of all-time,” according to Forbes.
Reports Rolling Stone, Heller is also claiming that he never actually “granted permission for filmmakers to use his name and likeness in the movie.”
Paul Giamatti played Heller in the film. According to the lawsuit, some scenes that Heller especially took umbrage with were when his onscreen counterpart “withheld a $75k check from Ice Cube,” “fraudulently induced Dre and Cube to sign unfavorable contracts” and “enjoyed lobster brunches while the contracts were being signed.” Heller also claims that some elements of the plot—including a scene where Eazy-E is forced by Suge Knight to turn over his Death Row rights—were taken from Heller’s own Ruthless: A Memoir without permission.
Read Heller’s complaint here.
Tess Cutler is an intern at Tablet.