Writer JD Lawrence Sues ‘Barbershop’ Franchise [Update]

Barbershop: The Next Cut hits theaters on Friday, but playwright JD Lawrence wants a judge to shut down the release immediately. Lawrence accuses the Barbershop franchise of plagiarism.

Lawrence says the Barbershop movie series—including the Showtime TV series—bears a strong resemblance to scenes from his play, Scissors. His rendition of barbershop toured the country from 1998 to 2001.

Lawrence claims his play had the same scenario: a barbershop in a black neighborhood that focused on the importance of community and making a difference. All three Barbershop movies have the same premise.

Lawrence even points out the similarities of his cast versus the cast of Barbershop. He suggest the Barbershop characters, plots, and events are all from his show, Scissors. Even Cedric the Entertainer’s character, Eddie, is a replica of an elderly barber in his play.

JD Lawrence points out specific topics in Barbershop that mirrors topics in his stage play including the Eddie’s thoughts on the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

In Scissors, the white barbers are also criticized for working in an African-American barbershop—just like the movie franchise.

According to TMZ, JD Lawrence is suing Warner Bros. and Showtime Network for at least $20 million. He also requests that the judge to block of the release, Barbershop: The Next Cut on Friday.

The original Barbershop movie was released in 2002 and was directed by Tim Story. The movie franchise stars Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, and rapper Eve. The Next Cut welcomes rap sensation Nicki Minaj.

The barbershop is set in South Side Chicago and follows the characters in a day in the life of scenario.

Both Barbershop movies were solid financial successes. According to Indiewire, the original movie brought in $77 million on a $12 million budget. Back in Business brought in $65 million on a $30 million budget.

The entire Barbershop franchise revolves around Calvin Palmer, played by lead Ice Cube, and his crew of barbers working in his late fathers’ shop. The last franchise left off with Palmer’s character overcoming Chicago’s growing gentrification of its low income neighborhoods.

Between Back in Business and the new installment, The Next Cut, Showtime Network turned the movies into a sitcom starring Omar Gooding, and developed by John Ridley, the screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave.

There is no word yet on the judge’s decision.

The stars remain focused on the release of Barbershop: The Next Cut on Friday. On Monday, Ice Cube and Common teamed up with VH1 for a behind the scenes special of the movie. Several other main stars, including Anthony Anderson, Regina Hall, and Cedric the Entertainer, came out to discuss the issues the youth of Chicago are facing.

The hour long special was hosted by Sway Calloway at a local Chicago college. The actors discussed topics from relationships to artistic expression to gun violence with a group of college-aged individuals.

“It is important to me that Barbershop does more than entertain,” said the film’s star and producer Ice Cube. “Along with comedy, the story touches on relationships and gang violence. This partnership with VH1 is the perfect way to expand this conversation.”

A joint statement from MGM and Warner Bros. states the following.

“This opportunistic lawsuit falsely attempts to discredit the gifted writers, producers, and directors who brought the Barbershop characters and stories to life over the last fourteen years, and improperly threatens to block audiences from the highly-anticipated April 15 release of Barbershop: The Next Cut. We will vigorously defend against these frivolous claims and seek all appropriate remedies from Mr. Dickerson for filing his exploitative suit.”

Update: the plaintiff in the Barbershop copyright infringement case recently filed an Order to Show Cause for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order, seeking to enjoin MGM and Warner Bros. from selling, marketing, advertising, and distributing Barbershop: The Next Cut. The Court held a hearing and denied the motion based on the plaintiff’s failure to show irreparable harm.

Warner Bros. and MGM issued a joint statement on the matter.

“We are pleased that Judge Swain saw through this thinly-veiled attempt to extort the companies that have invested over 14 years and millions of dollars to bring the beloved ‘Barbershop’ franchise to audiences worldwide.”

[Photo by John Salangsang/AP Images]