Lynyrd Skynyrd Biopic Pits Band Against Ex-Member

Lawsuit seeks to block ex-drummer's account of plane crash
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 12, 2017 11:20 AM CDT
Lynyrd Skynyrd at War Over 'Skewed' Biopic
Johnny Van Zant fronts the band Lynyrd Skynyrd in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 9, 2016.   (AP Photo/Larry Papke)

Current members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, along with representatives of members now deceased, are suing to block a new documentary, claiming it tells only a "compressed" and "sensationalized" story about the group. Judith Van Zant—the widow of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant, one of six people killed when the band's touring plane crashed in Mississippi in 1977—argued in a Manhattan court Tuesday that Cleopatra Records' Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash wrongly suggests the pilots were intoxicated. What's more, Van Zant says the film also violates a 1988 consent order governing use of the band's name, along with the name, likeness, and biography of her former husband, reports Courthouse News.

Band members Johnny Van Zant (Ronnie's brother) and Gary Rossington, as well as representatives for deceased members Allen Collins and Steve Gaines (who died in the crash), also protest the film, which offers former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle's opinion on what happened. Pyle, one of 20 people to survive the crash, "is free to exploit his own personal life story," but the film's improper use of the name and history of Lynyrd Skynyrd and its "potentially inaccurate or skewed portrayal … of a defining moment in the band's history" will cause considerable loss and harm, the plaintiffs say, per Reuters. Cleopatra CEO Brian Perera maintains he's not in the wrong. He hopes to release the film, which Cleopatra lawyers say will clearly acknowledge it's not authorized by the band, in 2018. (More Lynyrd Skynyrd stories.)

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