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NWA manager case against ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to proceed, just

By | Published on Friday 1 July 2016


The defamation lawsuit being pursued by former NWA manager Jerry Heller against the producers of the ‘Straight Outta Compton’ movie will proceed, despite the judge saying that most of the scenes in the film to which the one-time manager took offence were just fine.

Judge Michael Fitzgerald previously knocked back an attempt by the film’s producer to have the lawsuit dismissed, but in a new ruling has concluded that many of the scenes in which Heller is portrayed have parallels with the former manager’s own telling of his time managing the legendary hip hop outfit, while adding that a biopic is allowed to portray events in a “colourful and hyperbolic” way.

But, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Fitzgerald says that one thing possibly does amount to an inaccurate and unfair portrayal. “The film arguably portrays plaintiff as an exploitative record label manager who attempted to take advantage of an unsophisticated artist by discouraging him from retaining an attorney during contract negotiations”, wrote the judge earlier this week. There is nothing in the record to suggest that is in anyway true, it seems.

He goes on: “Viewers would not necessarily interpret the manager’s attempts to prevent an unsophisticated artist from hiring an attorney in a favourable or even neutral light. Those attempts go beyond what is normally expected at the negotiation table, and agents who engage in such tactics may well carry a bad reputation in the industry”.

And on that point – which seemingly relates to two scenes in the film – the defamation case can continue. Though the judge concedes that Heller’s team might struggle to show that this particular portrayal of the manager was done with actual malice, which would be required to win a defamation case in this jurisdiction.