Harper Lee estate sues over Broadway's Mockingbird play
Aaron Sorkin's play slated to begin previews in November, open in December
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday in federal court in Alabama asks a judge to resolve a contract dispute with producer Scott Rudin by giving the estate final say on whether Sorkin's script departs from the spirit of the 1960 novel or alters its characters.
The estate's representative, Tonja B. Carter, alleges that the script alters several characters, including protagonist Atticus Finch, who is portrayed as being initially naive to racism.
The script also "did not present a fair depiction of 1930s small-town Alabama" by tying it to today's social climate, according to the suit.
Carter said Sorkin, an Oscar winner and the creator of Emmy-winning TV series including the political drama The West Wing, added two characters to the script and told trade magazine Playbill that the book as written "doesn't work at all" as a play.
Previews to start in November
The play is set to open in preview on Nov. 1 in New York and stars Jeff Daniels as Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man against a false rape charge in the racially charged 1930s South. Opening night is slated for Dec. 13.
Representatives for Rudin and Sorkin did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The suit alleges Rudin ignored and resisted Carter, and that a February draft of the play "exacerbated her concerns," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.
In response, an attorney for Rudin's company, Rudinplay Inc, said in a letter to the estate that the company — and not the estate — had final say over the script, according to the lawsuit.
Rudin is a major Broadway and Hollywood producer, having won an Oscar and multiple Tony Awards, often earning honours for revivals of mid-century American theatre.
Lee died in 2016 at age 89.
To Kill a Mockingbird was met with high praise on its publication, winning the Pulitzer Prize and earning Gregory Peck an Academy Award for best actor in the acclaimed 1962 screen adaptation.
In Lee's only other novel, Go Set a Watchman, published in 2015 but written before Mockingbird, Finch is depicted as a bigot and racist who opposed desegregation efforts in the United States.