We first reported in late January that David Zindel, the son of playwright Paul Zindel, is accusing The Shape of Water of plagiarism. Now, the accusations have escalated in the form of a 53-page lawsuit against Fox Searchlight, Twentieth Century Fox, writer/director Guillermo del Toro, and associate producer Daniel Kraus.
NPR reports that Zindel’s suit was filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California. The suit alleges that The Shape of Water, “brazenly copies the story, elements, characters, and themes” of Paul Zindel’s 1969 work entitled Let Me Hear You Whisper. Zindel’s play, which was first adapted for television during the same year, tells the story of a female custodian who forms a special bond with a dolphin in a lab, and she hatches a plan to escape with the creature once she learns that scientists plan to dissect its brain.
In an earlier press release, Fox Searchlight stated that, “Guillermo del Toro has never read nor seen Mr. Zindel’s play in any form.” In the January, 2018 issue of Written By, del Toro said in an interview that the idea for the film came from a conversation with novelist Daniel Kraus, who suggested they develop a film about a “janitor that kidnaps an amphibian-man from a secret government facility.” The suit, however, alleges that Kraus is “both on record as an admirer of Zindel’s work, and came up with the “idea” for the Picture the very year the A&E production of Zindel’s Play first aired on national television (1990).”
News of the lawsuit comes just days before The Academy Awards will air on television, where The Shape of Water is nominated in 13 different categories, including a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Regardless of whether plagiarism is ultimately proven in a court of law, this development will likely impact the film’s performance next Sunday, as the final voting window for the Oscars opened on February 20th, and it closes on February 28th.
Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more details on Zindel’s suit as they break.