With 13 Oscar nominations this year, The Shape of Water, is one of the strongest contenders at the 90th Academy Awards. However, despite the film’s success, it has recently landed in hot waters with a plagiarism lawsuit.
On Wednesday, the film was hit with a plagiarism allegation claiming that its fantastical plot about a romance between a cleaning woman and a mysterious river creature was lifted directly from an American stage play.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleged that director Guillermo del Toro, producer Daniel Kraus and movie studio Fox Searchlight “brazenly copies the story, elements, characters and themes” from a 1969 play by the late Paul Zindel.
The lawsuit, filed by Paul Zindel’s son David, listed more than 60 resemblances between the play Let Me Hear You Whisper, and The Shape of Water. This includes the play and the movie’s basic story of the lonely janitor who works at a scientific laboratory during the Cold War, forms a loving bond with a captive aquatic creature and hatches a plan to liberate it. In the play, the creature is a dolphin. In the movie, it is a half-man, half-river creature.
The lawsuit said that despite “the glaring similarities between the play and the obviously derivative picture, defendants never bothered to seek or obtain a customary license” for the rights to Zindel’s play, nor credit him.
The New York-based playwright won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1964 play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and died in 2003.