from the cat's-outta-the-bag dept
[Lily] Dionne was one of about 79 cast and crew who say they were "grossly misled" when they answered casting calls on Craigslist, Backstage magazine and other publications in July 2011 for a film that was described as "an historical Arabian Desert adventure."According to Dionne, the actors were then brought back after shooting to do the dubs, but the producers had them speak isolated lines and words, completely out of context. For instance, they were asked to simply say the name "Mohammed" and nothing else, with no explanation as to why. 79 cast and crew members have since released a statement claiming they were taken advantage of.
But from the beginning, Dionne said the cast and crew had questions, including why the central character in a period piece had a Western name.
"We did wonder what it was about. They kept saying George. And we were like, 'This is the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Who's George?'" she said.
Now, one actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, has gone a step further and sued the man who produced the film, as well as YouTube, to, among other things, get the film taken down.
In a 17-page complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the lawsuit from Cindy Lee Garcia also names YouTube LLC, the video-sharing website on which the video is posted, and its parent company, Google Inc., as causing irreparable harm to Ms. Garcia for refusing to remove the content from their site.A couple of things strike me here, so I'll take them in order. First, I'm unaware of how a film's director could be sued for slander (another aspect (pdf) of Garcia's lawsuit) because of the way he/she decides to portray the actors in their films. Slander should be out the window, since Garcia and the others were playing fictional roles, and so are not portrayed to be anything at all beyond the characters they were playing. Could Kevin Bacon sue Sleepers director Barry Levinson because the result of post-production for the film made his character look just a tad too child-rapey? The privacy violation and likeness rights violation in the suit seem equally ridiculous. She consented to be in a film! It's understandable why she's upset, but if that's allowed, imagine how many actors would start suing every time a film edit is a disaster and makes them look bad.
"The lawsuit is not an attack on the First Amendment or the right of Americans to say what they think," but it demands the content be pulled off because "Ms. Garcia in no way consented to the use of her performance, image or likeness in such an offensive and file film," Garcia's attorney, M. Cris Armenta, said in a statement.
As for the "fraud" claim, that may be the strongest of a bunch of very weak claims. You could make the case that the various elements of fraud are present, but almost every one of them is a stretch.
In any case, today the judge refused to order an emergency takedown of the video—though the lawsuits will move ahead.
Even if there is a civil suit to be had here, targeting YouTube and requesting they take the film down has all the hallmarks of a head-in-the-sand approach (beyond raising questions of secondary liability). The cat is not only out of the bag at this point, it's protesting at its local US Embassy. The damage is done. I can certainly understand* the distress actors feel over the worldwide reaction to a film they probably thought would never be seen, but that doesn't mean the film has to come down. Google, thus far, agrees, and has refused to remove the video beyond censoring it in certain countries.
*One caveat: the trailer for this film was released in May. Where the hell were all these outraged actors back then? Why is it only now the film has made the news that they are releasing statements, speaking out, and filing lawsuits? Did none of these actors bother to view the movie they were in before the mainstream media picked this up?