‘Road House’ Rumble: Amazon Denies AI Used To Create Actors’ Voices For Remake During Strike As Original Pic’s Scribe Sues To Shut Down New Movie

“I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice,” Patrick Swayze’s James Dalton says in the original Road House from 1989.

That line from the screenplay co-written by David Lee Henry may have taken on a new significance for Amazon Studios, MGM Studios and United Artists on Tuesday with a new lawsuit aimed to TKO the Jake Gyllenhaal- and Conor McGregor-starring remake set to debut next week at SXSW.

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The lawsuit accuses Amazon of a very serious digital sleight of hand during last year’s Hot Labor Summer.

“This case arises from Defendants’ blatant copyright infringement due to their willful failure to license the requisite motion picture and ancillary rights to Hill’s Screenplay underlying their derivative 2024 Remake as required by law,” reads the copyright complaint filed today in California federal court (read the lawsuit here).

In fact, R. Lance Hill, who goes by David Lee Henry professionally, isn’t just saying he wants an injunction against the Doug Liman-directed movie. He’s saying a lot more.

Represented by studio-battling attorney Marc Toberoff, Hill claims to have pulled back the curtain on what could be the new reality of the entertainment industry. With Liman already boycotting the film’s SXSW premiere because of the decision to put the flick on streaming only March 21 instead of in cinemas, the 2024 film now seems to have stepped on a very 21st century landmine, according to Hill and his legal team.

“Hill is further informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Defendants went so far as to take extreme measures to try to meet this November 10, 2023 deadline, at considerable additional cost, including by resorting to the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) during the 2023 strike of the Screen Actor’s Guild (“SAG”) to replicate the voices of the 2024 Remake’s actors for purposes of ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement), all in knowing violation of the collective bargaining agreements of both SAG and the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) to which Defendants were signatories,” the 19-page complaint claims. “These are not the actions of companies that truly believe that Hill’s Termination is ineffective.”

“The lawsuit filed by R. Lance Hill regarding Road House today is completely without merit and numerous allegations are categorically false,” an Amazon spokesperson told Deadline this afternoon. “The film does not use any AI in place of actors’ voices. We look forward to defending ourselves against these claims.”

Jake Gyllenhaal and Conor McGregor in Road House movie
‘Road House’

Worth noting, that producer Joel Silver’s exit from Road House 2.0 and other Amazon projects back in November last year was said to have to do in part with his concerns about the use of AI on the remake.

In addition to the injunction and the AI allegations, Canadian scribe Hill cites a six-pack of damages and asks for a full accounting. As part of this potential legal kneecapping, Hill and Toberoff also want a court order that Hill’s statuary termination effective November 11, 2023 is valid, and that Amazon Studios and its MGM division had no “rights to make, produce or distribute the 2024 Remake or any other post-termination derivative work based in whole or in part on the Screenplay and/or the 1989 Film (as derived from the Screenplay).”

Hill is asserting he wrote the original Road House script on spec back in the Reagan years, and it was picked up by United Artists, later purchased by MGM. Though his initial UA contract called script a “work-made-for-hire,” Hill now disputes that as standard contract language for his Lady Amos loan-out company that hold no merit. What does have merit for Hill is that his efforts to take back control of the script he co-wrote and the Road House story he devised have been thwarted and ignored by Amazon in pursuit of their remake.

Today’s filing from Hill insists that Amazon believes the writer’s termination claim is invalid. Well-positioned sources at the company confirm Amazon does not consider Hill’s 2023 termination claim has standing.

On the other side, the aim was to complete the new movie by November 10 last year to get it in under the termination wire, Hill and attorney Toberoff say in the suit. “Ultimately, Defendants failed to complete the 2024 Remake until late January 2024, well after Hill’s Termination had taken effect,” the suit adds.

SAG-AFTRA did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment on the AI claims by Hill and the potential busting of the collective bargaining agreement if true.

Having said that, even with Amazon denying any AI was used, some of Hollywood’s worst fears and most fearful prophecies about the use and power of the tech in studio hands will shake the walls of Tinseltown Jericho just by the allegations alone — as attorney Toberoff well knows.

To put another way, with memories of 2023’s double-strike summer still burning in many people’s minds and bank accounts and as IATSE, the Hollywood Teamsters and other crafts prepare to begin their own talks with the studios next week, Amazon may find itself receiving the beatdown of all beatdowns — and no Jeff Healey cover of “Roadhouse Blues” will make that feel better.

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