LOS ANGELES — The family of the Israeli writer whose article inspired Tom Cruise’s 1986 film Top Gun is suing film studio Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement over its sequel. They claim the studio didn’t have the rights to Ehud Yonay’s 1983 “Top Guns” story when it released the sequel Top Gun: Maverick last month.
The film grossed $548m (£438m) worldwide in its first 10 days of release.
Paramount said the claim was “without merit” and promised to dispute it. Top Gun: Maverick sees Cruise reprise his role as U.S. Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell from the original 1986 film.
It had the fourth-biggest opening weekend of any Covid-era film, behind bestseller Spider-Man: No Way Home, second-place Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and then The Batman .
The lawsuit – filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles by Shosh and Yuval Yonay, Ehud’s widow and son, alleges Paramount failed to buy out the rights to Ehud’s magazine article after his termination under United States copyright law.
They seek unspecified damages from the movie studio, including profits from Top Gun: Maverick.
According to the lawsuit, Paramount’s Top Gun franchise would not have existed without Ehud’s “literary endeavors and evocative prose and narrative.”
The lawsuit said that in 2018, the Yonays informed Paramount that its rights to Ehud’s article would be terminated two years later. He added that the studio lost the copyright to the piece in January 2020.
“Although Paramount wants to claim otherwise, they did a sequel to Top Gun after losing their copyrights,” lawyer Marc Toberoff, who represents the Yonays, told the BBC. Paramount said in a statement, “These allegations are without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves.”
Mitra Ahouraian, a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer, told the BBC that Paramount’s plans to produce Top Gun: Maverick in 2018 and release it in 2019 had been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The timing is going to be very important in this case because the notice of termination has been sent…to have an effective date of 2020,” Ms Ahouraian explained.
The sequel sees Maverick return to the Top Gun flight academy as an instructor responsible for training a new generation of pilots.
It gave Hollywood superstar Cruise his first $100m (£80m) opening weekend at the box office. Its previous biggest opening weekend came in 2005 with War of the Worlds, which grossed $64m (£51m).