Producer Luc Besson Found Guilty Of Plagiarizing John Carpenter’s ‘Escape From New York’

The world of movies is a big one and it’s hard to come up with an idea that hasn’t been taken or used before. Still, one filmmaker can’t blatantly rip off another or they’re going to get busted, and that is exactly what a judge ruled has happened. Producer Luc Besson has lost his appeal and it has now been ruled that his 2012 film Lockout did indeed plagiarize John Carpenter’s ’80s action classic Escape From New York.

Besson has had a number of big-time hits including La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element among many others, but the problem came about with his 2012 film Lockout.

Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace star in the film which is about a man who is wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States. It is a futuristic science-fiction action movie which sees the lead offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from a dangerous prison in space.

luc besson john carpenter escape from new york lockout guy pearce [Image via Open Road Films]In 1981, John Carpenter wrote and directed the Kurt Russell-starring Escape From New York which was set in a futuristic 1997. Manhattan is a giant maximum security prison with dangerous inmates everywhere. The president crashes there and is trapped, so a convicted bank robber named Snake Plissken is offered his freedom if he can rescue him.

Sound similar?

Besson didn’t think so and he vehemently denied that he plagiarized Carpenter’s film, but Yahoo News is reporting that a court didn’t agree with him. An appeals court in Paris ruled that Lockout and Besson had “massively borrowed key elements” from Carpenter’s Escape From New York.

Plagiarism in movies is very difficult to prove since so many are made and it’s just extremely difficult to make something 100 percent different. In this case, Carpenter thought there was enough to prove his side and he was correct.

Now, Besson has been ordered to pay more than $500,000 (450,000 euros) in damages to John Carpenter and his rights holder StudioCanal.

luc besson john carpenter escape from new york lockout guy pearce snake [Image via AVCO Embassy Pictures]According to Deadline, the original ruling made last fall had ordered Besson and his production company and the co-writers/directors of Lockout to pay around $95,000 (85,000 euros) to Carpenter, StudioCanal, and co-writer Nick Castle.

Luc Besson decided to appeal that ruling by stating that his movie did not plagiarize any others. John Carpenter filed a lawsuit that originally had him seeking $2.4 million, but he obviously did not receive that much.

A spokesman for Besson said that this judgment from the Paris court of appeals was not what they were expecting.

“(We were) very surprised by the ruling but the judges have spoken and we will accept the judgment.”

Besson has said in the past that the judgment was a “block on artistic freedom,” and that he did not plan on copying Carpenter’s movie. His lawyer even said that Escape From New York owed a lot on its own to Mad Max and Rio Bravo which had both filmed two years earlier.

Currently, Luc Besson is working on a science-fiction movie called Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets which has a huge budget of $180 million. Some footage was shown at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con and it received a great ovation.

Luc Besson is still working on a number of projects and will keep on doing so even though his appeal was lost in this case. The amount $500,000 may end up being a drop in a bucket for him, but the damage this could do to his reputation is much worse. Lockout was extremely close to Escape From New York and nowhere near as good, but John Carpenter still doesn’t want plagiarism showing up in any form in his profession.

[Image via AVCO Embassy Pictures]