Harper Lee Estate Sues To Stop ‘Mockingbird’ Broadway Version For Altering Character Of Atticus Finch

Lee’s estate says that Aaron Sorkin’s script wrongly changes Atticus Finch and other characters from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

Brynn AndersonAP Images

The estate of American novelist Harper Lee is taking umbrage with the changes writer Aaron Sorkin has planned for the Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Eight months before her death, Harper Lee signed a contract for her opus to be made into a Broadway play. The contract details that To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of Atticus Finch, a “noble attorney” who represents a black man wrongly accused in the rural south. The lawsuit claims that Aaron Sorkin’s script changed fundamentally who Harper Lee intended Atticus Finch to be.

The Estate Of Harper Lee Has Filed A Lawsuit Against The Creator Of The Broadway Version Of Mockingbird

Page Six said that the estate of Mockingbird creator Harper Lee filed the lawsuit against the theater company of New York producer Scott Rudin, citing an interview with Aaron Sorkin in Vulture. In the interview, Aaron Sorkin said he planned to change the lead character of Atticus Finch from the Harper Lee version of a noble and ethical man at the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird to a “racist apologist at the start of the show to become ‘Atticus Finch’ by the end of the play.”

The lawsuit by the estate of Harper Lee says that such changes by Aaron Sorkin would constitute a breach of contract. The estate hopes to stop the Broadway project by Sorkin and Scott Rudin from proceeding.

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In the lawsuit filed by the estate of Harper Lee, they are asking the judge to enforce the section in the contract that says “the play won’t depart in any manner from the spirit of the Novel [To Kill a Mockingbird] nor alter its characters.”

A law firm that represents Rudin’s company, Rudinplay Inc., says the Sorkin To Kill a Mockingbird script is faithful to the novel by Harper Lee and within the agreement between Rudin and Harper Lee.

In The Broadway To Kill A Mockingbird, The Character Of Atticus Finch Has Been Changed, Says Harper Lee Estate

“[Sorkin’s script] is a faithful adaptation of a singular novel which has been crafted well within the constraints of the signed agreement,” said a statement from Rudin’s rep.

The statement also suggested that the estate of Mockingbird writer Harper Lee is lawsuit happy. The estate is overseen by attorney Tonja Carter of Lee’s south Alabama hometown of Monroeville.

“This is, unfortunately, simply another such lawsuit, the latest of many, and we believe that it is without merit. While we hope this gets resolved, if it does not, the suit will be vigorously defended.”

The play, which is set to open in December, could be blocked by the lawsuit, which lists Carter as the plaintiff. Before her death, Rudinplay paid Harper Lee $100,000 after she approved Aaron Sorkin as the scriptwriter for the Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Mr. Rudin assured Ms. Carter that he wanted to do the Play [To Kill A Mockingbird] right and that he would make sure that the Estate would be satisfied with the final product.”

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Vanity Fair says that while talking about casting the Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aaron Sorkin admitted that in his script, the lead character of Atticus Finch is a man in progress, rather than the moral authority he is in the novel by Harper Lee. Actor Jeff Daniels has been cast as Atticus Finch, and Sorkin said that as Atticus, Daniels will “[become] Atticus Finch by the end of the play.”

The Casting Of The Broadway Version Of Mockingbird Includes Scout, Jem, And Dill As Adults, Concerning The Lee Estate

However, the rest of the casting perhaps lends some credence to the concerns of the estate of Harper Lee. Celia Keenan-Bolger will play Scout, daughter of Atticus Finch and the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird along with Will Pullen as her brother, Jem, and Gideon Glick as their friend Dill. While all three of these picks are excellent actors, all three are adults, which doesn’t follow the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird as written by Harper Lee. In the original Mockingbird, Scout, Jem, and Dill are children who learn a lesson from Atticus Finch.