As Top Gun: Maverick continues to soar at the box office, legal troubles await Paramount on the tarmac.
The studio behind the sequel is being sued for copyright infringement by the family of the author whose article inspired the original film, 1986's Top Gun. Late writer Ehud Yonay's widow and son, Shosh and Yuval Yonay, are accusing Paramount of failing to reacquire rights to the article before releasing the "derivative" sequel.
In their lawsuit filed Monday, the plaintiffs allege that Paramount completed Top Gun: Maverick in May 2021, over a year after the copyright to the story had "reverted" back to them under the Copyright Act in January 2020. (The film was initially scheduled for a 2019 release but got delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finally hitting theaters last month.)
"Paramount deliberately ignored this, thumbing its nose at the statute," reads the lawsuit, which was obtained and shared in full by Variety.
Paramount argued that Maverick was "sufficiently completed" by the effective termination date of Jan. 24, 2020, in the complaint, calling the Yonays' suit a "disingenuous attempt to bootstrap" the sequel "into the 'prior derivative works' exception." The studio also denied that the sequel derived from the original article. A spokesperson for Paramount said in a statement that the claims "are without merit" and that "we will defend ourselves vigorously."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, but requests profits from the sequel and that distribution be blocked.
When reached for comment, Marc Toberoff, the Yonays' attorney, told EW in a statement: "Paramount's statement reminds me of the new sequel where Rear Admiral Chester 'Hammer' Cain says, 'The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is headed for extinction.' Like Maverick, we reply, 'Maybe so, sir. But not today.' [As] much as Paramount wants to pretend otherwise, they made a sequel to Top Gun after they lost their copyright. As Maverick would say, 'It's time to buzz the tower.'"
Director Joseph Kosinski's sequel debuted at No. 1 over Memorial Day weekend, earning $156 million over the long weekend and marking a career-best start for leading man Tom Cruise. Maverick marks Cruise's biggest theatrical opening to date; until then, his 2005 sci-fi film War of the Worlds ranked as his top domestic opening with $64.9 million. Maverick continued to fly high in its second weekend, surpassing $500 million at the global box office.
This article has been updated to reflect Toberoff's statement.