There’s a Lawsuit Over The Rights to ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’

Published on November 5, 2020

Truman Capote’s charity trust is suing Paramount Pictures. Capote, who penned the novella among other classics, set up the charity before his death. Now, the people behind the charity are going to argue their case to secure the rights.

The lawsuit argues the charity has the right to make spinoffs of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, including a prequel, sequel, or television show inspired by the 1961 classic, not the short story. They’re different stories.

Alan Schwartz, who’s the trustee of the charity, is alleging the rights went back to Capote’s charity trust following his death. “In 1991, Plaintiff and the Capote Estate entered into an agreement with Paramount, whereby Paramount optioned certain sequel and prequel rights, among others, with respect to the film,” according to the complaint. “The agreement provided that, if a motion picture was not produced within a certain amount of time, the rights would revert back to Plaintiff.” The basic argument is Paramount never made another Breakfast at Tiffany’s film, so the rights belong to Capote’s trust. 

The studio did and do have plans for another film. Paramount doesn’t want to let the property go, either. The studio has a script and wants to sell the project to a steaming service. The trust’s plans for TV shows or prequels, which has drawn interest from film financiers, had been shut down by Paramount. The suit argues the studio “claims that no reversion occurred, that it had the right, but not the obligation, to produce the film, and that it purchased this right for $300,000.00.” The suit adds: “What is most inconceivable, however, is that Paramount claims that whether or not it had an actual obligation to exploit Plaintiff’s valuable film rights depended exclusively on the timing of its acquisition payment.”

Paramount released the original film in 1961. Audrey Hepburn gave an iconic performance in the Blake Edwards film, which is light, fluffy, and pretty to the eyes. It is also often shallow and has one of the most derided pieces of casting in cinema: Mickey Rooney playing an Asian character. It’s horrific. 

Capote himself was a major critic of the film. He notoriously disliked it. Paramount turned Capote’s pitch dark story into a popcorn movie. It’s a good movie, but a terrible adaptation. Holly Golightly is not half as charming in the novella as she is in the movie. In the book, she’s racist, selfish, and hurts others. Edwards and Hepburn, on the other hand, made Tiffany charming and fun. The Holly from the movie and the book couldn’t be more different, which is why another adaptation of Capote’s story isn’t a bad idea.

A more faithful version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s would be timely, too. Holly Golightly’s despicable qualities represent larger issues in pop culture today. She’s a character who suits 2020. Not to speak for Truman Capote, but he did want a more faithful adaptation. The author wasn’t happy about Hepburn’s casting. He wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role. Monroe, however, was swayed to turn down the part. “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey,” Capote once said. Despite Capote’s distaste for the film, it went on to earn Academy Award nominations and become a Hollywood classic. Hepburn’s performance is, for good reason, beloved. 

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Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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