Playwright's Estate: Oscar-Nominated Film Ripped Him Off

Paul Zindel's people say 'The Shape of Water' borrowed from a 1969 play
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2018 6:58 AM CST
Playwright's Estate: Oscar-Nominated Film Ripped Him Off
This image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Richard Jenkins, left, and Doug Jones in a scene from the film "The Shape of Water."   (Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP)

The Shape of Water has been nominated for 13 Oscars, including best director, best picture, and best screenplay—but the estate of a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright is pushing back on the latter. David Zindel says in an email to the Guardian that the acclaimed movie is "obviously derived" from Let Me Hear You Whisper, a 1969 play written by his father, the now deceased Paul Zindel, and that he's "shocked" the movie was made without anyone noting the inspiration or asking for rights permissions. The Guardian does note "close similarities" between the movie and the Zindel play, which was also made into a TV production. Perhaps the closest alignment: In both movies, the main character is a cleaning lady who works in a lab and falls in love with a marine creature (in the more recent movie, that creature is an amphibian man; in Zindel's work, it's a dolphin).

The Hollywood Reporter notes that the parallels of plot and character have been whispered about on the internet for some time, including on the Hollywood Nerd website run by actress Rachel Style—who also happens to be David Zindel's wife. "A lot of people are telling us they are struck by the substantial similarities," David Zindel says in his email to the Guardian. Fox Searchlight, which released The Shape of Water, is going to bat for director Guillermo del Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor. "Guillermo del Toro has never read nor seen Mr. Zindel's play in any form," the company's statement reads. "If the Zindel family has questions about this original work we welcome a conversation with them." Check out the Guardian to see other reasons why armchair analysts are saying the two works seem too close for comfort. (More Guillermo Del Toro stories.)

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