WAILUKU, Hawaii–A Hawaii man has filed a US$300 million copyright infringement lawsuit, claiming the “Matrix” trilogy of science fiction films has striking similarities to his screenplay.
Playwright Thomas Althouse of Maui claims 166 instances in the movies are similar to parts of his 1992 screenplay, “The Immortals.”
“They took so much,” he told the Maui News. “The striking similarities are off the charts.”
Named in the lawsuit are Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., producer Joel Silver, directors and writers.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California in January 2013.
Althouse said he was invited by studio executives to submit his story to the Burbank, California, studio in 1993 for consideration as a possible project. Defense attorneys, in court filings, deny such an invitation was made.
“There is no merit to this frivolous lawsuit,” Warner Bros. said in a statement.
Althouse claims the concept of the movie trilogy — futuristic tales in which reality is actually simulated, created by machines to subdue humans, and a computer programmer leads a rebellion against the machines — was born four months after the studio received his screenplay.
The first film, “The Matrix,” was released in 1999. It was followed by “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” both released in 2003.
Because the lawsuit was filed more than 10 years after the first film’s release, the statute of limitations has passed. Althouse’s lawsuit is for claims against the two remaining movies.
He said it took him 20 years to file a lawsuit because he was diagnosed with a stress disorder that prevented him from watching violent movies. He also said he heard the two other films were horrible and didn’t bother to watch them.
Althouse said he saw the first movie and just thought the similarities to his screenplay were a coincidence. But later, after seeing some images on movie websites, he decided to watch the last two films in the series.
Althouse said he “was like … ‘No way.’”
“I started researching immediately, and I was blown away,” he said.
Althouse claims there are “almost verbatim dialogue and character descriptions.”
He has lived on Maui for 11 years, and has taught drama to middle school students.
Trial is set for June 17. According to court records, it’s expected to last up to eight days.