Amazon facing accusations of utilizing AI to mimic actor voices for ‘Roadhouse’ remake

Issues arising over the upcoming “Road House” film remake, featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, are once again escalating, as the original movie’s writer is taking legal action against Amazon Studios.

R. Lance Hill, the screenwriter of the 1989 cult classic, filed a lawsuit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and its owner, Amazon Studios, for copyright infringement on Tuesday, seeking declaratory relief.

Using the pen name David Lee Henry, Hill claims that Amazon neglected his rights under the U.S. Copyright Act, allowing him to reclaim the rights to his 1986 screenplay, “Roadhouse,” which inspired the original film and this year’s remake, where Gyllenhaal plays a former UFC fighter attempting to move on from his fighting days.

In the legal documents filed in the U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles, Hill alleges that he submitted the required petition to the U.S. Copyright Office in late 2021, asking for the copyright to revert to him after United Artists’ claim expired in November last year, the studio behind the original movie starring Patrick Swayze.

However, Amazon, who acquired the rights to “Road House” through the purchase of MGM’s film library, reportedly ignored his copyright assertions and continued with the movie production, even using AI technology during last year’s SAG-AFTRA strike to replicate the actors’ voices in the 2024 film.

According to the lawsuit, the movie was finished in January, a couple of months after the copyright deadline.

The legal action also states that the use of AI to imitate actors’ voices violated agreements between major studios, including Amazon, and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as well as the directorial contract with the Directors Guild of America.

Amazon Studios representatives did not provide an immediate response to Hill’s lawsuit and its contentions.

The lawsuit aims to halt the film’s distribution, set to be available on Amazon Prime Video on March 21.

The new version of the film has already caused a stir, with director Doug Liman announcing a boycott of the film’s premiere at next month’s South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin, Texas. In an article published last month on Deadline, Liman expressed disappointment that Amazon was choosing to release the film on its Prime Video platform rather than in theaters.

When Amazon Studios first announced the movie in mid-2022, it specified that the film was approved as a streaming title.

In the remake, Gyllenhaal’s character, Dalton, encounters a bar owner at a roadhouse played by Jessica Williams (“The Daily Show” and “Shrinking”), who needs a bouncer to safeguard her establishment in the Florida Keys from troublemakers, including a character played by real MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

In the original film, Swayze portrayed the muscular bouncer named Dalton, who maintained order at the Double Deuce bar in Missouri.

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