This Is Spinal Tap is one of the best comedies of all time, maybe even one of the best movies, full stop, but according to writer and co-star Harry Shearer, the creative minds behind the movie haven’t been properly compensated for it.
According to the LA Times, Shearer is suing Vivendi and StudioCanal for $125 million, claiming that the studios have been using accounting tricks to avoid paying royalties to Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner, all of whom are credited as the writers of both the movie and its iconic soundtrack.
According to the lawsuit, Shearer and the other writers have each received the paltry sums of $81 for merchandise royalties and $98 for music royalties over the last 32 years. Shearer claims that Vivendi and StudioCanal have been “cross-collaterizing,” meaning that unrelated losses are being paired with Spinal Tap’s profits in order to make it look like the movie hasn’t made a profit.
Shearer is also looking to win the rights to the movie under a provision of the Copyright Act that would trigger due to fraudulent accounting. If Shearer does win the suit, he could win the rights to the Spinal Tap movie and characters by 2019. Apparently, Shearer and his costars aren’t allowed to play their characters in live concerts without the studio’s permission and by paying a fee, an explanation for why the trio is so rarely seen performing together.
This isn’t the first time that Hollywood’s creative accounting has made headlines. Back in 2009, David Prowse, the actor under Darth Vader’s suit in the original Star Wars trilogy, claimed that he had never received royalties for Return of the Jedi because the studio always claimed that the movie had never turned a profit.
It’s hard to believe that Spinal Tap hasn’t been a huge hit, considering its been a cult classic for decades now, but either way, $179 for each of the four minds behind the movie, soundtrack and characters doesn’t seem anywhere close to fair.