Scott Rudin Claims Harper Lee's Estate Is Hindering the Broadway Production of To Kill A Mockingbird

Illustration for article titled Scott Rudin Claims Harper Lees Estate Is Hindering the Broadwayi /iProduction of iTo Kill A Mockingbird/i
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The estate of Harper Lee does not like whatever Aaron Sorkin’s genius man brain is cooking up. His Broadway production was slapped with a lawsuit in March for deviating too far from Lee’s original novel To Kill A Mockingbird, which they claim violates the usage agreement. On Monday, producer Scott Rudin fired back at the estate with a $10 million countersuit.

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According to Deadline, the suit alleges that the estate’s executor Tonja B. Carter’s objections to the adaptation have put the entire production in peril:

Specifically, Carter objected to what she interpreted, from reading a script draft, as the depiction of Mockingbird protagonist Atticus Finch as an apologist for the racism of the tale’s Depression-era South. Finch, as memorably played by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film version, has long been viewed by readers and viewers as the epitome of racial tolerance and understanding, a humanist icon.

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As Deadline points out, Sorkin’s interpretation could easily be coming from Lee’s own work in the long-awaited sequel, Go Set A Watchman, which showed Atticus as “an apologist for racial segregation.” Like many outwardly liberal white people, he was a racist all along.

Rudin says that Carter’s attempts to control the script have scared off investors, and is threatening to cancel the show entirely, which was scheduled to go on in December 2018. And, not to be dramatic, but Rudin has offered to stage the play as it is for a federal judge to show that they are being faithful to Lee’s work.

Carter will not be outdone, and released the following statement:

“As the personal representative of the Estate of Nelle Harper Lee, I must protect the integrity of her beloved American classic, and therefore had no choice but to file a lawsuit against Rudinplay [Rudin’s production company] for failing to honor its contract with Ms. Lee. It is my duty and privilege to defend the terms of Ms. Lee’s agreement with Rudinplay, and I am determined to do so.”

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To be continued.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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DISCUSSION

Personally, I’m on the side of the production. If only because including Atticus’ racism from Watchmen is very prescient to the times and is a whole lot more interesting that the angelic figure he is often portrayed as. Correlating this story with the racism of well-meaning liberal whites would make for a very effective production I think.

That being said I completely understand that when you aquire the rights to adapt an existing work, you are bound by the author’s (or estate’s) terms. I always defended Edward Albee when he pulled rights for productions that deviated too much from his intention, so it’d be hypocritical of me to criticize Ms. Lee’s estate.