Harper Lee’s Estate Sues Over Broadway Version of ‘Mockingbird’

‘The screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — faces a legal challenge from Ms. Lee’s estate, which is suing over Mr. Sorkin’s version of the story.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Alabama, the estate argued that Mr. Sorkin’s adaptation deviates too much from the novel, and violates a contract, between Ms. Lee and the producers, which stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book.

A chief dispute in the complaint is the assertion that Mr. Sorkin’s portrayal of the much beloved Atticus Finch, the crusading lawyer who represents a black man unjustly accused of rape, presents him as a man who begins the drama as a naïve apologist for the racial status quo, a depiction at odds with his purely heroic image in the novel.

In February, the lawsuit says, Tonja B. Carter, the lawyer Ms. Lee appointed to run her estate, met with Scott Rudin, a producer of the play, for one to two hours to express “serious concerns about the script.”

“At times, the conversation was heated,” but the meeting ended without a resolution, the lawsuit said.

The “Mockingbird” adaptation is being directed by Bartlett Sher. The cast is led by Jeff Daniels, as Atticus, and includes Celia Keenan-Bolger as his daughter, Scout; Will Pullen as her brother, Jem; and Gideon Glick as their friend Dill. Casting for the role of Arthur (Boo) Radley has not yet been announced.

Mr. Rudin said he was surprised by the estate’s criticism of Mr. Sorkin’s depiction of Atticus because Ms. Carter had been instrumental in the 2015 publication of “Go Set a Watchman,” an early draft of “Mockingbird” that depicted an aged Atticus as a racist and segregationist.

Ms. Lee signed the contract authorizing the play in June 2015, eight months before she died at age 89. She received $100,000 for the production rights, as well as what Broadway experts described as a generous portion of the box office revenue and any net profit.

The play, which is scheduled to begin previews Nov. 1 and to open Dec. 13 on Broadway, is a joint production of Mr. Rudin and Lincoln Center Theater.’

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