Truman Capote’s estate vs Paramount Pictures on the adaptation rights of ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Truman Capote’s estate vs Paramount Pictures on the adaptation rights of ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Starving fans waiting for a second helping of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” may have to put their appetites on hold a bit longer pending the resolution of a copyright infringement suit filed against Paramount in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The complaint was brought by representatives of the Truman Capote Literary Trust representing the interests of the late author whose 1958 novella was turned into the iconic 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard that was the vehicle for “Moon River.

In a complex legal tangle that would arguably be incomprehensible to the likes of Holly Golightly, it is alleged that Paramount has no rights to remake the classic title. The studio is being sued for $20 million just for its moves toward developing a new script.

The dispute began in 1990, when the Supreme Court ruled that author’s estates had greater leeway to control literary properties.

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(The landmark case, Stewart v. Abell, dealt with copyright issues around Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of a Cornell Woolrich story for “Rear Window”.) The decision prompted Paramount and the Capote estate to negotiate a new agreement in 1991 in which Paramount got a three-year option to purchase rights for a remake of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” 

Essentially, the Capote estate is arguing that the studio lost its bargaining rights because it did not exercise its option in a timely fashion. But the studio is countering that this did not apply to foreign rights. Alan Schwartz, trustee for the estate, is now suing Paramount for $20 million on the grounds that the studio is already circulating a new script it hopes to develop into a property it would then sell to a streaming platform. Schwartz has reportedly estimated profits as high as $50 million could be at stake. The estate supposedly wants to turn “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” into a television series. 

Paramount had asked a federal court to assume jurisdiction over the dispute. Most likely, once the dust settles, any new version of the film would cast an Asian actor in the role of Mr.  Yunioshi, avoiding a reprise of the 1961 film that featured a “Yellowfaced” Mickey Rooney wearing a prosthetic mouthpiece.

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