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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 13:24 GMT
Silent star heir sues Disney
Adam Sandler
The Waterboy: Adam Sandler stars as the nerd with grandiose dreams
The grand-daughter of the late silent film star Harold Lloyd is suing Walt Disney for $50m (34.4m).

She claims that Disney's 1998 film The Waterboy is a copy of the 1924 film The Freshman which starred Lloyd.

Suzanne Lloyd Hayes has filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court, on behalf of the Harold Lloyd Trust, claiming the two films have 56 specific common characteristics.

Harold Lloyd
Harold Lloyd in The Freshman
The Disney movie stars Adam Sandler and has earned more than $161.5m at the US box office for the studio.

Harold Lloyd was one of the biggest silent film stars of the 1920s and was famous for performing his own stunts. He died in 1971.

"Because Harold Lloyd and Walt Disney were very good friends, Mr Lloyd's grandchildren were very reluctant to sue,'' Ms Lloyd Hayes' attorney Bert Fields said.

"But when Disney refused, once again, to settle, they really had no choice," he added.

Adam Sandler is not being sued but he is described in the lawsuit as an agent of Disney.

Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy, Sandler's college room-mate, are credited as the writers of the 1998 comedy.

The key common elements listed in the lawsuit are:

  • Adam Sandler and Harold Lloyd both play "nerdy" waterboys - people who distribute water to players at US sports games - who dream of being football stars

  • The films are set on college campuses, revolving around American football

  • Both leads idolise a character who is nothing like them

  • Both lead characters have a deceitful parent

    Harold Lloyd
    Lloyd was famous for performing his own stunts
    The complaint concludes: "It's as if Disney said, 'We can't call it The Freshman. What else is he in the film?... Oh yes, he's the waterboy. That's what we'll call it.'."

    The lawsuit claims: "There is not only substantial but striking similarity between The Freshman and The Waterboy, including similarity in plot, action, theme, mood, characters and setting.

    "Although some of those elements have been modified to please the 90s audience and to employ the 90s technology, reviews of The Waterboy in respected American publications immediately recognised and reported the defendant's film to be a 90s copy of The Freshman."

    Mr Hayes added: "In my opinion, Harold Lloyd's grandchildren are entitled to a very substantial sum from Disney."

    The Disney Corporation declined to comment on the lawsuit.

    Adam Sandler's latest film, Little Nicky, opens in the UK on 17 November.

  • See also:

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    24 Oct 00 | Entertainment
    US TV writers sue over 'ageism'
    29 Aug 00 | Entertainment
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    11 Aug 00 | Americas
    Disney stole sports park idea
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