A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : KING’S KINGDOM : We Get It All the Way Up to the Mercedes Part
Stephen King is obviously still angry about “The Lawnmower Man” and the fact that the film’s distributor, New Line Cinema, and the producing company, Allied Vision, sold the film as “Stephen King’s Lawnmower Man.” A lawsuit was recently filed on King’s behalf against the two companies in an effort to get them to stop using his name on future releases of the film, television showings and the videocassette, due out in August.
But what really makes King mad is the fact that plans are under way for a sequel to “The Lawnmower Man,” even though, at the moment, there are no plans to use his name in connection with that film.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re not using my name,” says King. “Everybody is still going to associate my name with the sequel with or without my name on the credits.” As an example, King points to “Pet Sematary 2,” a soon-to-be-released sequel to 1989’s successful “Pet Sematary,” which was based on his novel. Although the film’s distributor, Paramount Pictures, was planning to use his name to promote the film, King successfully lobbied to have his name taken off. “Paramount didn’t care,” he says. “They knew everybody will associate it in terms of my name anyway, just like everybody will do with the ‘Lawnmower Man’ sequel.”
According to Allied Vision’s chairman, Edward Simons, the sequel, which will be produced and possibly written by Brett Leonard, the director of “The Lawnmower Man,” will center around the CyberJobe character played by Jeff Fahey in the first film. Because the character was not in King’s original story, Simons says they will not use King’s name in association with the sequel.
But that’s not good enough for King. “That kind of logic is crazy,” says King. “Almost everything in the first film had nothing to do with my story and yet they still stuck my name in the title. The movie had nothing to do with what I wrote. It’s like taking a Mercedes hood ornament and putting it on a Chevrolet and selling it as a Mercedes.”
As for the lawsuit over using King’s name in connection with “The Lawnmower Man,” Simons feels it’s all about money. “It’s got to be more than a coincidence that Mr. King waited until the film had made over $30 million,” says Simons from his office in London. “It’s strange because he was complaining about this early on, yet obviously waited to see how much money the movie would make. I can’t think of any other reason for him to wait. Why would you wait three months if it has nothing to do with money?”
But King strongly disagrees: “I don’t need their money. I’m not on welfare. I’m doing better than they are.”
But that’s not what Simons has heard. “What we were told is that Stephen King is going after the profits from using his name,” he says. “While Mr. King talks about his good name as his only asset, this film is our only asset and we will not have our reputation impinged by unnecessary and dubious lawsuits.” Simons also points out that “The Lawnmower Man” story first appeared in the men’s magazine Cavalier in 1972. “It’s a soft-porn magazine,” says Simons. “Maybe names didn’t count for so much then.”
But King responds: ‘It first appeared there, because basically at that time, my name didn’t mean anything to anybody. But now it does and that’s the point.”
Simons says the lawsuit will not curtail their plans for the sequel. “I’m not going to be browbeaten by an American law firm,” he says. “This is absolute time wasting. Some lawyer thinks we can be beaten over the head, but we won’t be. If this is another case of David and Goliath, we know the outcome of that.”