Straight Outta Compton producers have responded to the lawsuit by the former N.W.A. manager. Straight Outta Compton producers, including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, argue that the film didn’t demonize Jerry Heller any more than what the public was already aware of, and that Heller knows what people think of him, as admitted in his 2006 autobiography, Ruthless: A Memoir.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Jerry Heller filed the $110 million lawsuit in October with his lawyer, Michael Shapiro. The Los Angeles filing included a long list of defendants. Jerry didn’t stop at just Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and director F. Gary Gray — the lawsuit also names NBCUniversal, Easy-E’s estate, Easy-E’s widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, and just about every other individual and company involved in the making of Straight Outta Compton.
— Jon Powell (@jonxpowell) February 12, 2016
If you are wondering why 75-year-old Jerry Heller is still looking to get paid and is fiercely protective of his image, an interview last year by the late Grantland website shows that Heller still views himself as music industry royalty.
“People were talking sh*t about me. They don’t anymore! I’m the same guy, man. But now I’m, like, one of the biggest heroes in the history of the music business. I mean, an icon. People stand in line to take pictures with me. I’m talking about gangsters.”
— Welcome To Death Row (@WelcomeDeathRow) February 5, 2016
As you can see, both Jerry Heller and Suge Knight may leave a legacy of being west coast hip-hop music industry pimps. But both of their actions just go to further confirm their movie portrayals. Heller wants the public to see him as he sees himself, rather than as the hip-hop villain. But he is emblematic of music industry creeps taking advantage of young talent.
NBCUniversal and the defendants have already filed a motion to dismiss many of Heller’s claims. They’ve also filed an anti-SLAPP motion to avoid getting silenced due to the burdens of the legal process. The defendants legal response comes after Straight Outta Compton was ignored by both the Golden Globes and the Oscars despite its overwhelming performance at the box office. Straight Outta Compton did receive a Screen Actors Guild nomination for the highly coveted Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award, but ultimately lost to Spotlight.
Although Straight Outta Compton is dealing with lawsuits and award show snubs, it may have opened the gates to a higher level in music biopic filmmaking. At least three potential films related to people depicted in Straight Outta Compton are rumored to be in the works. And even Def Jam is planning a film about their own legendary hip-hop lineage.
— Kip (@KipoCyrilSnarez) February 1, 2016
One of the more related sequels focuses on Tha Dogg Pound, the rap duo of Daz Dillinger and Kurupt who led the second wave of Death Row Records’ success. The movie includes depictions of Snoop Dogg, Suge Knight, and Tupac, as well. The movie’s progress has slowed due to legal issues over the rights to the music they want to use. Suge Knight and related record companies smelled money and have gotten involved, trying to cash in on the action. Hence, the real life drama that plays on in the background of the on-screen drama. Another related film, Welcome to Death Row, is also rumored, but the film faces even more roadblocks due to music copyright issues.
Another heavyweight hip-hop movie which focuses on Tupac, titled All Eyez on Me, is also moving along rather swiftly in production. Tupac was featured briefly in a Straight Outta Compton recording studio scene. All Eyez on Me is scheduled for a November 11 release. Time will tell if it can meet Straight Outta Compton levels of success. Straight Outta Compton set quite a standard to reach for any type of music biopic.
[Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards]