A federal judge in New York has permanently blocked the making of a movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd and the 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines.
The movie was being developed by Cleopatra Entertainment with former Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle. The Van Zant estate and other Skynyrd members or their representatives filed suit last month claiming Pyle was violating a 1988 agreement between the former band members about when and how the band’s name and story could be used. U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet agreed in his ruling on Monday.
Pyle, who left Skynyrd in 1991, signed the 1988 agreement — which allows band members to tell their own stories in books and films, but not the story of the band without the prior written approval of guitarist Gary Rossington, and the legal representatives of late members Van Zant and Allen Collins. Although Pyle wrote “under protest” next to his signature on the agreement, the judge found that he had agreed to its terms.
Because Pyle was deeply involved in the proposed movie — working on the script, providing material to producers, agreeing to narrate the film and set to earn five percent of the movie’s profits — and because the movie didn’t tell Pyle’s life story, but only the story of his time with the band, the plane crash and its aftermath, the movie violated the 1988 agreement, the judge found.
In his ruling, Judge Sweet wrote, “in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as ‘free as a bird'” to make a Lynyrd Skynyrd movie, but because of the nature of Pyle’s involvement without the agreement of the other band members and their families, the company has been permanently banned from making this movie.
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