In the years since Harper Lee’s died in 2016, her 1960 novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has been recreated in surprising new ways. It was released as a graphic novel in 2018, and was adapted into a Broadway hit by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
Now, after a years-long legal battle, the road has been cleared for another major adaptation: a movie remake or sequel.
No plans have been announced, or even contemplated, according to the successors and heirs of the producers of the original 1962 adaptation starring Gregory Peck.
But unsealed documents filed in Alabama federal court reveal how those successors and heirs successfully fought Lee’s estate to preserve the right to make any sequels or derivative films. Which, they say, was originally granted by Lee in 1961 and reconfirmed by her in 2008.
The dispute over the copyright of Lee’s classic film has been going on for years. Not long before her death, Lee attempted to revoke the film rights from the heirs of the original film producers. The producers raised an objection, arguing that their previous agreement with Lee was still in effect and that the family had no right to enter into any agreements with other producers or filmmakers for any what comes from “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Go Set a Watchman,” Another novel by Lee, released in 2015.
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As part of the arbitration agreement, previously reported by Puck . digital media company, the Lee family also agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the heirs of “Mockingbird” producer Alan Pakula; director Robert Mulligan; and Peck, who stars as Atticus Finch, a small-town Alabama lawyer who fights to vindicate a wrongly convicted Black man. Cecilia Peck, the actor’s daughter, signed with Atticus Corporation, a party to the agreement. The agreement also grants the producers the rights to make a movie adaptation of “Go Set a Watchman,” with the caveat that the estate must sign it.
It’s been another legal hitch to Lee’s estate recently lose a battle with the publisher of the theatrical version of “The Mockingbird,” after the arbitrator ruled that the estate must pay more than $2.5 million in damages and fees to Dramatic Publishing, a theater publishing company. The stage has licensed the theatrical adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” for decades.
Lee herself was such a fan of the 1962 film that she was adamantly opposed to a sequel or remake that would dilute its legacy. In a 2008 letter to Peck’s widow, she was adamant that no one but Peck should play Atticus on screen: “Of course, he’s the only Atticus and I hope there’s some way. to prevent a recurrence, of any kind,” she wrote. “I know that we can ‘ban’ forever, but things still happen.”
In 2008, Lee signed a new agreement with the original producer’s successors, granting them film and other rights to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” while Lee reserved the literary rights. , stage, television and radio for one person. Lee’s representatives tried to end those rights in 2015, just months before her death, but the arbitration ruled that the attempt to revoke those rights had no effect.
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In a statement, Tonja B. Carter, who runs the Lee estate, lamented the outcome of the arbitration, and said Lee made a mistake when she entered into the 2008 settlement.
“We are disappointed with the outcome of this referee,” she said. “The fact that Gregory Peck’s heirs were entirely based on a 2008 agreement convinced Ms. Lee to sign, at a time when she was advised only by her 93-year-old sister, even though it was completely against the interests of the couple. Grandma. do like that. The 2008 agreement transferred intellectual property rights of exceptional value owned by Ms. Lee in exchange for $1. ”
An attorney representing the producer, Mark Lee, said that his clients fought to retain the film rights in part to prevent anyone else from making a film that undermines the spirit of the novel or original movie.
“They want to be the right defenders of those rights,” he said. “They want nothing to happen with the rights they disapprove of, or that would not respect Mrs. Lee’s legacy.”
He added that there are no immediate plans to make a movie based on Lee’s popular characters.
“My client currently has no intention of creating or producing a remake or sequel,” he said. “I would never say never, but they have no such plans at the moment.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/arts/gregory-peck-mockingbird-sequel.html The daughter of Gregory Peck and others holds the rights to the ‘Mockingbird’ sequel