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Guillermo del Toro named 'true creator' of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends

·2 min read
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Guillermo del Toro and his Oscar-winning Shape of Water team have emerged unscathed from the depths of a copyright lawsuit claiming that the Best Picture winner plagiarized the work of the late playwright Paul Zindel.

In a statement provided to EW, film distributor and production company Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) indicated that the legal action against del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus had been dismissed after the Zindel estate's attorney, Marc Toberoff, previously cited 69 points of alleged similarities between the 1969 stage play Let Me Hear You Whisper (about a woman who bonds with a lab dolphin) and del Toro's movie (about a woman, played by Sally Hawkins, who bonds with a humanoid sea creature, played by Doug Jones, in a research facility).

"David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded," the statement said. "He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water. Any similarity between the two works is coincidental."

EW has reached out to Toberoff & Associates for comment.

Fox Searchlight Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in 'The Shape of Water'

News of the suit broke during The Shape of Water's Oscar run during the 2017-2018 awards season, with del Toro stating that he couldn't "stomach the timing of this accusation" and that it would be "a relief" to explore the matter legally.

Shortly after the suit was filed in February 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said that "the Court concludes that although there are some minor similarities, the Film and the Book are not substantially similar to the Play." But in June 2020, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case, releasing a memorandum that said: "Though both works properly were presented to the district court, additional evidence, including expert testimony, would aid in the objective literary analysis needed to determine the extent and qualitative importance of the similarities that Zindel identified in the works' expressive elements, particularly the plausibly alleged shared plot sequence," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Both sides were reportedly slated to present additional information this year, and a trial had been set for July before the case was dropped.

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