You might have thought that having an ex-member of a legendary band involved in a film bio-pic would be an asset, but a new Lynryd Skynryd biopic has been blocked because of ex-drummer’s Artimus Pyle’s involvement.
Initially producers Cleopatra Records said that the biopic, Street Survivor: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash‘ was not an authorised project, and that it should be free to make the film – arguing that under its First Amendment free speech rights, it was allowed to make a film about the band and the 1977 plane crash in which two band members died. Initially US District Court Judge Robert Sweet agreed that Cleopatra was free to make the film in its own right, but then found that the involvement of Pyle in the movie venture violated the agreement (a’consent order’) he had reached with his former bandmates back in 1988. In that agreement, Pyle was given permission to tell his own life story, but he couldn’t use the band’s name or exploit the rights of the two band members killed in the 1977 crash, Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines.
Granting an injunction, Judge Sweet said: “Cleopatra is prohibited from making its movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd when its partner substantively contributes to the project in a way that, in the past, he willingly bargained away the very right to do just that; [but] in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as ‘free as a bird’ to make and distribute its work”.
The legal action against the biopic has been brought by the estates of Van Zant and Gaines, as well as current Lynyrd Skynyrd members, Gary Rossington and Van Zant’s brother, Johnny. Cleopatra have said they will appeal the decision.