‘Straight Outta Compton’ Slapped With $250 Million Defamation Lawsuit

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N.W.A manager Jerry Heller is now suing for roughly $250 million in damages over his portrayal in Straight Outta Compton, one that he alleges is misleading, libelous and false.  The suit includes $35 million in monetary damages, $75 million in punitive and exemplary damages, plus ‘all gains, profits, and advantages obtained by Defendants,’ which could translate into all profits made from the movie.   That puts total claimed damages at roughly $250 million — and counting — depending on future, post-cinema receipts.
The Defendant list is exhaustive, and includes direct F. Gary Gray, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the Estate of Eazy E, and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.

The contention is that Heller was unfairly and inaccurately cast as a villain in an ultimately defamatory and unauthorized work, an actionable offense.  Despite some positive and complex character treatment, the movie ultimately portrays Heller as a scheming and slick manager, one whose shady dealings ripped the group apart and fomented a war between its founders.

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Specific scenes of the movie are being contested in the suit, including Heller withholding a $75,000 check from Ice Cube, inducing Dr. Dre and Cube to sign bad contracts, and getting fired by Eazy-E.  The broader ‘sleazy manager’ portrayal may have stung the most, especially given the strong suggestions of exploitation.

The movie has now grossed over $161 million, according to Box Office Mojo, with a budget of under $30 million.  At present, profits stand at more than $131 million and counting.

Heller, depicted by the brilliant Paul Giamatti (pictured), actually comes across as a complicated and oftentimes warm character in the film.  Unmistakably, Straight Outta Compton steered Heller towards the villain character that Hollywood loves, though Giamatti breathed a complex and avuncular realness into that bias.

Outside of the film, Heller has certainly been assailed as a crook by members of N.W.A, though in the film, he’s also the level-headed businessman in an extremely noisy, violent, and controversial storm.


10 Responses

  1. Jerry is a good man.

    I”ve known Jerry for a long time. Those that don’t like him are those who negotiate against him, instead of with him. That’s how it goes.

    • truEntertainment

      Can anyone provide me a link of what Jerry has done of such a great magnitude since NWA?

  2. Phantom X

    If you never had to grow and eXist in pure mob life you really can’t know or comprehend the transformation of the thought and speech patterns that grow and evolve along with that. And mob life is not about killing–it’s about syndicating with different powerful organized families and earning money for each of them as well as yourself: your very friendly neighborhood poet , LX ; kids inside the American streets think they’re in mob life already–if you can make 50 million in five seconds you are ? I’ll blow the cap off your ass during negotiations and leave you toothless and send my own dentist in to fit you for your very first pair of plates !

  3. Hate to be That Guy but..

    The movie has now grossed over $161 million, according to Box Office Mojo, with a budget of under $30 million. At present, profits stand at more than $131 million and counting.

    The movie business has distributors and retailers (theaters) just like the music business once had. The theaters’ cut of gross revenue is usually around 50%, so a top-line box office gross is cut in half to get to “profits”. If profits stand at $80M, subtract marketing costs and any first dollar gross percentage going to Ice Cube (the star & producer), and you’re left with something less than $50M to sue for..

    just sayin’

    • JeffC

      You are correct regarding the numbers, but I think in this oversimplified context, the word “profits” is being used to merely represent the gross revenues vs cost of production, And though IANAL, that would indeed be the figure any lawsuit like this would be based on.

  4. Rick Shaw

    I’m going to sue Jerry Heller because I don’t like the shirt he wore yesterday. Whatever. This is a joke. Anyone can sue anyone over anything, but it doesn’t make it valid.

    • JeffC

      Frankly, I would sue simply for being portrayed by Paul Giamatti.
      He’s a loaf of ham.
      I really can’t stand that guy, but that’s just my opinion.