‘Road House’ Screenwriter Sues MGM Over ‘Unauthorized’ Jake Gyllenhaal Remake

Laura Radford
Laura Radford

The screenwriter of the cult classic film Road House is suing MGM, Amazon and United Artists for copyright infringement over its remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal, according to a filing obtained by The Daily Beast.

R. Lance Hill (also known as David Lee Henry) is an accomplished novelist who also wrote the 1989 film, which starred Patrick Swayze. Road House follows brooding main character Dalton, who just so happens to have a karate black belt and a philosophy Ph.D., as he takes on the task of taming and cleaning up a roadside bar in rural Missouri. Hill wrote the screenplay in 1986, which United Artists produced in 1989.

According to Hill’s filing, in 2021, he sent notice to United Artists that the copyright grant was ending and the rights to his screenplay would revert back to him on November 11, 2023. Hill claims in the filing that instead of honoring the notice, MGM, Amazon and United “steamrolled ahead with the production of a remake of the 1989 film,” ignoring Hill’s claim of ownership. The new Roadhouse was reportedly completed in January this year, well after the November deadline.

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Hill’s complaint also outlines several key similarities between Hill’s screenplay and the Gyllenhaal-starrer, with a long list of mirrored details—such as Dalton’s body being “riddled with injuries from his past” or his having a “sixth sense for impending violence,” along with many other story elements submitted by Hill and his attorneys as evidence with the complaint.

Additionally, Hill’s suit makes the explosive allegation that the defendants employed AI technology to generate actors’ voices during last year’s SAG-AFTRA strike, an “extreme measure” the complaint said was employed to meet the November 11 cutoff date before the rights reverted, which ultimately proved unsuccessful.

An Amazon MGM Studios spokesperson told the Beast, “The lawsuit filed by R. Lance Hill regarding Road House today is completely without merit and numerous allegations are categorically false. The film does not use any AI in place of actors’ voices. We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims.” The studio has also pushed back on the suggestion that either AI or non-SAG AFTRA actors were used to complete the film.

The Daily Beast reached out to representatives for the remake’s director Doug Liman—who himself is boycotting the SXSW premiere due to the studio’s decision to give it a streaming-only release—and has not yet received a response.

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