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Jerry Heller hints at litigation after seeing 'Straight Outta Compton'

Jerry Heller hints at litigation after seeing 'Straight Outta Compton'
Jerry Heller in 2001. He hasfiled a $110-million libel lawsuit over his portrayal in the N.W.A biopic, "Straight Outta Compton." (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

As one of the main behind-the-scenes players in the rise of Ruthless Records and its banner act, N.W.A, music executive Jerry Heller has remained notably mum about his portrayal in the rap group’s recent biopic, “Straight Outta Compton.”

During a recent phone conversation on the influence and importance of early Ruthless Records all-female rap group J.J. Fad, however, Heller issued his clearest comment to date on his reaction to the film.

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Not that it was all that clear. Asked whether he liked the movie or actor Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of him, Heller made only one on-the-record statement.

"Well, my only comment so far is that I think it's inappropriate for me to comment on a movie that I haven't seen," he said. "I did see it on Saturday, and I'm still not willing to comment right now on that movie because I think sooner or later it may be part of an ongoing litigation."

Though still vague, Heller's statement builds on comments he made before the movie's release, when he told TMZ: "Until I see the film, I'm not going to comment on it. I'll be there Thursday night in the first row with at least two of my lawyers, and we'll see if I like it or not." (Note: apparently their screening was delayed by a few days.)

Heller, 74, helped take the Compton rap group nationwide in the late '80s after he formed a business relationship with Ruthless Records founder and N.W.A member Eric "Eazy-E" Wright. A veteran talent scout and executive with a deep history in the business, Heller has his own version of those events, many of which are included in his 2006 autobiography, "Ruthless: A Memoir."

For more details on Heller's thoughts on the rise of Ruthless Records, read the Times feature on N.W.A labelmates J.J. Fad. References to the group are absent from "Straight Outta Compton," but J.J Fad were key players in the Ruthless camp and helped pave the way for legions of female rappers to come.

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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