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Lynyrd Skynyrd biopic blocked because of ex-drummer’s involvement

By | Published on Tuesday 29 August 2017

Lynyrd Skynyrd

A US judge has blocked the production of a Lynyrd Skynyrd biopic, though only because of the involvement of the band’s former drummer Artimus Pyle.

When legal action was first launched to try and block production of the film – which was to be called ‘Street Survivor: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash’ – legal reps for co-producer Cleopatra Records argued that it had no plans to suggest that the band had authorised the project. And under its First Amendment free speech rights, it argued, it was allowed to make a film about the band and the 1977 plane crash in which two band members died.

The judge overseeing the case agreed that Cleopatra was free to make the film in its own right, but then stated that the involvement of Pyle in the movie venture breached an agreement – or ‘consent order’ – he had reached with his former bandmates back in 1988.

In that agreement, Pyle was given permission to tell his own life story, but on the condition he didn’t use the band’s name or exploit the rights of the two band members killed in the 1977 crash – Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines.

According to Rolling Stone, judge Robert Sweet wrote in his judgement yesterday: “None of the defendants received the requisite authorisation under the terms of the consent order in depiction of Van Zant or Gaines or in the use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd name, and therefore all have violated the consent order”.

The judge went on: “Cleopatra is prohibited from making its movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd when its partner substantively contributes to the project in a way that, in the past, he willingly bargained away the very right to do just that; [but] in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as ‘free as a bird’ to make and distribute its work”.

The legal action against the biopic was pursued by the estates of Van Zant and Gaines, as well as current Lynyrd Skynyrd members, Gary Rossington and Van Zant’s brother Johnny.