April 21, 2018
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Maine author Tess Gerritsen sues Warner Brothers for $10 million over movie ‘Gravity’

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

Camden-based writer Tess Gerritsen, author of such bestselling books as the Rizzoli & Isles series of crime novels and “The Bone Garden,” has sued Warner Brothers over their Oscar-winning 2013 movie “Gravity.”

In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in California, Gerritsen alleges that Warner Brothers used her 1999 novel of the same name as the basis for their movie, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

The writer is seeking a minimum of $10 million of the film’s $700 million in gross box office earnings. The complaint is based on a $1 million contract Gerritsen signed with a subsidiary of New Line Productions in 1999, to sell the book’s feature film rights. New Line was purchased by Warner Brothers in 2008.

Gerritsen’s “Gravity,” published in 1999, focuses on a female physician turned astronaut named Emma Watson, who is stationed on a space station. Once there, things begin to go terribly awry when the space shuttle she arrived on crashes, the space station is crippled and the singled-celled organisms on which Watson is experimenting get loose and begin to infect the crew.

In the film “Gravity,” medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Bullock, is on the space shuttle with astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). They are on a spacewalk working on the Hubble space telescope when a cloud of debris strikes both the shuttle and the telescope. Stone is hurled loose from her tether, but is retrieved by Kowalski. When they discover the shuttle is destroyed, the pair must make their way back to the International Space Station.

According to a statement published on her website, Gerritsen believed the plot similarities were a coincidence, until receiving reliable information in Feb. 2014 that one of the individuals who developed the film for Warner Brothers was familiar with her novel.

“No one is saying they couldn’t make the film based on her book,” Glen Kulik, Gerritsen’s lawyer, said in an interview with Maine Public Broadcasting Network. “But, under her contract, if they did make that film based on her book, they were supposed to do certain things.”

Kulik said Gerritsen filed the lawsuit after several attempts to resolve the issue out of court.

“You know, Miss Gerritsen is not a litigious person. This is not something she looked for, and we all wish we could have avoided it,” Kulik told MPBN. “But unfortunately, given the hard line position that we’re hearing, we’re going to go forward and see what happens.”

Warner Brothers declined comment, but noted that Gerritsen is quoted in an Oct. 8 story published in the Indiana Banner Graphic as saying that “Gravity” is a “great film” but “it’s not based on my book.”

Gerritsen has lived with her husband and children in Camden since 1990.


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