The Oscar winning director, the studio and screenwriter Mark Boal say the First Amendment protects them in use of elements of Jeffrey Sarver’s life in The Hurt Locker. “By any reasonable measure, the film must be considered a ‘transformative’ work of artistic expression that is protected by the First Amendment,” they said in an 87-page brief (read it here) submitted earlier this week to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief goes on to say that there are only “generic similarities” between Sarver and the William James character played by Jeremy Renner in the 2008 film. This case may sound familiar. The former US Army explosive technician Master Sargent had his initial invasion of privacy 2010 suit against Bigelow, Boal and others dismissed in October 2011. At that time, Sarver was ordered to pay $187,000 in lawyers’ fees to Bigelow, Boal, Summit and the Hurt Locker production. The former Master Sgt. appealed that ruling last November. In his own brief (read it here) filed on July 2 against Playboy as well as Bigelow, Boal and others, the veteran claimed that the film’s use of his life was not transformative at all, that it violated his right of publicity and First Amendment rights have to balanced against his own right of privacy. Bigelow, Boal and Summit’s lawyers disagree. “Appellant cannot state a cause of action for …
U.S. District Court Judge Jacqueline Nguyen has dismissed a lawsuit against the filmmakers behind Oscar Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker that alleged they improperly used the likeness of an actual soldier, Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver. Sarver filed the suit before the Oscars, claiming screenwriter Mark Boal based the film — and its lead character, played by Jeremy Renner — on him and presented him in a false light. Today, Nguyen disagreed, saying “the value of The Hurt Locker unquestionably derived from the creativity and skill of the writers, directors, and producers who conceived, wrote, directed, edited, and produced it.”
Boal was embedded in Sarver’s unit in 2004 and wrote about him and other bomb-disposal experts in Playboy magazine, a story that became the basis for the film. Said Boal today: “The Hurt Locker was inspired by many soldiers I met and interviewed during my time reporting in Iraq and elsewhere. It was a disservice to all of those other soldiers for Sgt. Sarver to claim that he was the only soldier that was the basis for the hero of the film.”
The lawyer for Sarver, who was ordered to pay the defendant’s attorneys’ fees, said they will appeal the ruling.