Writer of Screenplay Sues Fox Over “Ad Astra” Film
Steven T. Lowe
On July 21, 2021, writer and producer, Phillip Madison Jones, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Twentieth Century Fox and Creative Artists Agency (“CAA”) for allegedly stealing a screenplay that he had pitched to them.
According to Jones, Twentieth Century’s 2019 film “Ad Astra” entirely copied the central storyline, characters, plot, mood, theme, and various minor elements of his screenplay, “Cosmic Force” from beginning to end.
Jones published his graphic novel “Cosmic Force” in 2014, which is the “story of a soldier who is offered the opportunity to lead a mission across unforgiving space to the edge of the solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father, a legendary astronaut, whose doomed expedition twenty years earlier now threatens the universe due to a pulsating alien energy source onboard the father’s ship.”
In February 2015, Jones prepared a Screenplay and registered it with the Writers Guild of America West. Then, in the hopes of having his screenplay adapted into a movie, Jones met with representatives of CAA in November 2015 to discuss the process for packaging the movie.
Then, in February 2016, Jones attended a meeting with Mike Stein of Fox to pitch his Screenplay, and after reading the Screenplay, Stein told Jones that Fox executives had decided to pass on it, according to the complaint.
However, according to the complaint, unbeknownst to Jones, and without his authorization or permission, Twentieth Century Fox and CAA passed off the ‘Cosmic Force Screenplay as their own, which they used to secure talent and financing.
Then, in 2019, “Ad Astra” — staring Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones — was released without Jones’s authorization, (or credit), and went on to generate over $135 million at the box office.
According to Jones, due to “defendants’ access to the [‘Cosmic Force’] script and the degree of similarities between copyrightable elements of [‘Cosmic Force’ and ‘Ad Astra’], it is obvious that defendants knowingly and improperly appropriated the plaintiff’s creative work without authorization or permission.”
Jones further alleged that any differences between the movie “Ad Astra” and his “Cosmic Force” script “are so small and insignificant that they cannot be afforded copyright protection, and are, in fact, nothing more than transparent attempts to hide defendants’ copying.”
Author’s Note: On July 29, 2020, Jones filed an application for registration of the copyright for his “Cosmic Force” script with the U.S. Copyright Office. Always register your work with the United States Copyright Office, not the WGA, for multiple reasons.
Jones is represented by Carl I. Brundidge, David E. Moore and Leena Mauskar of Brundidge & Stanger PC.
Counsel for the defendants could not immediately be determined.
The case is Phillip M. Jones v. Twentieth Century Studios Inc. et al., case number 2:21-cv05890, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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