Harlan Ellison boasts a strong track record when it comes to defending his creations. But his efforts to cash in on box office bomb “In Time” won’t be a part of it.
Just as a judge was deciding whether to dismiss his case, the author decided to drop his claims against screenwriter Andrew Niccol that his Justin Timberlake vehicle borrowed too heavily from Ellison’s short story “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman.”
On his official website, Ellison referred to the case withdrawal as a settlement, one he made after seeing the film. While The Hollywood Reporter, in announcing the settlement, joked about the quality of the film leading toward Ellison’s decision, it’s more likely that Ellison could not establish the film was derivative of his work.
Ellison also said that he will not get screen credit, nor will he receive any money from the film. Ellison also will likely have to pay his own attorney and court costs. The author had originally demanded the film not be released as scheduled. It was released on time, but would make just $33.4 million in the United States, short of its $40 million budget (although international sales made it a profitable film).
Niccol’s attorney, Vincent Fox, made it clear to Airlock Alpha a month ago that “In Time” was not taken from Ellison’s work, and that the author’s suit was meritless. Ellison, however, pushed forward, citing various similarities between his 1965 short story and the film.
This is a much different outcome than what was circulating around the net a month ago. A Yahoo News reporter mistakenly read a Harlan Ellison entry on Wikipedia and reported that a settlement had been reached giving Ellison screen credit for “In Time.” However, both Niccol’s attorney Fox and the Writers Guild of America contacted Airlock Alpha to say that no settlement had taken place providing screen credit.
Ellison did not correct any of his fans congratulating him on the initial settlement on his official website, but his attorney, Adam Thurston, did confirm to Airlock Alpha at the time that no settlement was made.
The good news in all of this is that it may have boosted Ellison’s HBO project a bit. J. Michael Straczynski is working on a screenplay version of “Repent Harlequin!” HBO is not fully committed yet, but Ellison seemed to indicate that they were the likely suitor to air such a production once it’s completed.
Ellison is best known to genre fans for his story “City on the Edge of Forever” for the original “Star Trek” series, which he swore off after Gene Roddenberry made changes to it. He has written other projects for screen, including entries into the 1980s “Twilight Zone” as well as “Masters of Science-Fiction” and “Babylon 5.”