29 Reasons Why Jerry Heller Is Suing the Producers of ‘Straight Outta Compton’

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Last week, N.W.A manager Jerry Heller launched a massive lawsuit against the producers of the film Straight Outta Compton, based on a number of counts including defamation.  Now, Digital Music News has obtained a copy of the complaint filed with the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles , which contains an impressive 29 different reasons for a lawsuit whose damages could reach $250 million.

According to the filed complaint:

1. The screenplay that Straight Outta Compton was based upon was actually created in part by Jerry Heller starting in 2001, in collaboration with Xenon Pictures.  Over four drafts were created between 2002 and 2008, though Heller alleges that Xenon sold his jointly-developed screenplay behind his back and violated his copyrights.

2. Heller did not authorize the use of his name or likeness within the film, or the portrayal acted by Paul Giamatti.

3. Despite this use of his name and likeness, Heller never received any compensation.  He was not even contacted by anyone involved in the film.

4. The film itself is ‘littered with false statements‘ that not only harmed Heller’s reputation, but ‘aimed to ridicule and lower [Heller] in the opinion of the community,’ while discouraging others from doing business with him.

5. In the film, Jerry Heller is falsely portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ in the movie who caused the demise of N.W.A.

6. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as a ‘sleazy manager’ who attempted to defraud N.W.A members Eazy E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube.

7. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as intentionally discouraging Andre Young (aka Dr. Dre) and O’Shea Jackson (aka Ice Cube) (both named defendants in the case) from seeking the advise of an outside attorney, with the intent of defrauding both rappers.

8. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as withholding a $75,000 check owed to Ice Cube.

9. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as inducing both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre into signing unfavorable contracts.

10. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as paying himself an unfairly large percentage of the earnings from N.W.A, while paying the members less than their proper share.

11. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as failing to pay bills and expenses for the group, while taking the money for himself.

12. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as intentionally keeping the members of N.W.A in the dark regarding finances.

13. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as enjoying a ‘lobster brunch,’ while intentionally delaying contract preparations for Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.

14. In the film, Heller is falsely portrayed as being fired by Eazy E (the estate of Eazy E and his widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, are named defendants).

15. Disparaging remarks about Heller attributed to Tomica Woods-Wright, Eazy E’s widow, violate a non-disparagement clause signed between Woods-Wright and Heller in 1999.

16. Large portions of the film that are factually accurate were lifted without permission from a copyrighted book and screenplays authored (in whole or in part) by Heller (thereby constituting plagiarism and infringement).

17. In the film, the ‘pivotal scene’ in which Jerry Heller defends the members of N.W.A against racist police officers outside a Torrance recording studio, was stolen from a copyrighted work authored by Heller.

18. In the film, the ‘pivotal scene’ in which Eazy E is violently forced by Marion ‘Suge’ Knight to sign away Ruthless’ exclusive rights over Dr. Dre, was stolen from a copyrighted work authored by Heller.

19. The record-setting success of the film has created large and increasing damages for Heller, who continues to be ‘defamed, ridiculed, and robbed of his personal and financial rights’ on a massive and growing scale.

20. The false, defamatory and disparaging statements and portrayals about Heller are easily accessible not only by the general public, but Heller’s acquaintances and business partners; past, present and future.  Ultimately, Heller’s reputation has been damaged with millions of people, in the State of California and throughout the world.  The end result is inevitable damage to the ‘excellent professional reputation’ that Heller has established.

21. At various times, the defendants in this case ‘conspired with each other to engage in the acts’.

22. All of the false statements and portrayals listed above are both libelous and slanderous, and reflect a ‘reckless disregard or lack of concern for the truth…”

23. The negative and false portrayals in the film were not only intended to cause harm to Heller, they have caused actual harm (though specific incidents of that harm were not specified).

24. All of the above false statements and portrayals constitute ‘trade libel’ and ‘trade disparagement’ against Heller’s business interests.

25. The defendants in the case not only disregarded the truth, but they knew they were lying and the impact these lies would have upon Heller’s professional and personal life.

26. Among the many damages already felt by Heller are costs assumed to counteract the false statements and portrayals created by the defendants, upon which Heller will seek compensation.

27. The producers of Straight Outta Compton used Jerry Heller’s actual name in the film, as played by Paul Giamatti.  There was no effort to use a fictional name, like ‘Gary Beller,’ for example.

28. The film constitutes an invasion of privacy against Heller.

29. The producers of Straight Outta Compton, through their reckless and intentional actions, forced Heller to pay for legal services (attorneys’ fees) to defend his reputation.

For these offenses, Heller is seeking monetary damages of $35 million, punitive and exemplary damages totaling $75 million, and ‘all gains, profits and advantages’ enjoyed by the defendants (including profits from the film).

Here’s the complete filing.

11 Responses

  1. GGali

    Looks like some of these accusations have merit. Either way DR. Dre and Cube will have to cough up some cash!

  2. Bomb Diggity

    Don’t you think Universal , Dr.Dre , Ice Cube and the director and the various producers covered their A**’s when preparing the production and release of this very successful film. The principles of the film lived what was portrayed . It will be hard for Heller to prove his case. Don’t you think you Butt F*ck them enough !
    ” Straight Outta Luck “

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Logically, you’d think that. Heller feels that the movie is an attack piece, but I’ve seen the film and didn’t quite get that takeaway. Giamatti I think created a real character; he didn’t quite seem ‘evil’ or the ‘Hollywood bad guy,’ it seemed far more realistic than that.

      Anyway, if these things DID happen as portrayed, for example the withholding of the $75,000 check, then those details can be defended in the case. It’ll be interested to see what they come back with.

      • MDE427

        I don’t think this movie vilifies Heller either. He seems very real …. and regarding whether he screwed the guys out of money, took more than his fair share, etc, they never address what he exactly did – and leave it ambiguous and up to the audience to decide. Hell, especially in the beginning, they portrayed Jerry as having the guys back and standing up for them, as well as protecting them from what he could.

        I think Heller is an old school ‘business’ guy, with that old school mentality. He wouldn’t have been happy here unless he was made out as some squeaky clean good guy who could never have done something wrong.

  3. Megamind

    He won’t get a dime! And rightfully so!…greedy shyster!
    This lawsuit is without any merit…he’s hoping they settle so he can see a million or two.

    I find it funny, the same cat they ALL left the group to get away from…won’t go away and is STILL trying to leach and blood suck them almost 25 years later!

    Universal Pictures attorneys will get this dismissed.


    • vicky

      He will win because everything he saying is true! Cube and dre not only cover they ass in the movie by not putting anything bad about they self, but they also pretty much made up a whole lot on eazy part! People going off cube and dre but don’t think about the fact that both of them left nwa!Tomica, cube and dre had something to do with eazy death in they been covering they ass with money in making it look like the white guy jerry killed him, black people can be so blind and stupid when its very clear who killed eazy!

      • MDE427

        Damn !! …….. you are stupid! Stupid as f*ck man – wow.

        Keep on living in that little bubble you call reality idiot.

  4. Rick Shaw

    #30 – Because he can. Anyone can sue anyone for anything…even if the claims are meaningless and incorrect.

  5. Taz

    How sure all the armchair critics seem of their positions!
    Unless you were part of it or have some inside information, you have no evidence for your take.
    Does it not seem strange to anyone else that the movie producers left themselves so wide open? Could it be they were expecting a lawsuit? Perhaps even welcoming it?
    There was a conversation in the movie where the trope is repeated that there is no such thing as negative publicity. Controversy sells. You argue and debate while they generate.