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The heirs of the ‘Top Guns’ magazine journalist are suing Paramount and want to stop the Tom Cruise blockbuster from getting distributed

June 6, 2022, 9:02 PM UTC

Paramount Pictures is getting hit with a lawsuit that claims the studio failed to secure the rights to the story that inspired the breakout non-superhero hit of the summer, Top Gun: Maverick, having previously done so for its 1986 predecessor, Top Gun. 

The original film both credits and drew inspiration from Ehud Yonay’s article “Top Guns,” which was published in a 1983 issue of California magazine. Paramount bought the rights to the story later that year. The author’s widow and son, Shosh and Yuval Yonay, claim they notified the studio in 2018 that they were recovering the copyright to the story, according to a complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court. 

The copyright transfer went into effect in January 2020, after Top Gun: Maverick wrapped filming, but Yonay’s heirs allege Paramount finished reshoots for the film more than a year later, in May 2021. Top Gun: Maverick went into production in May 2018. 

A Paramount spokesperson said in a statement to Fortune, “These claims are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”

Originally set for release in July 2019, the film faced a lengthy delay, at first to film additional flight sequences and then another two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the movie finally hit theaters on May 27, it became an instant blockbuster, generating ​​$124 million in ticket sales during its opening weekend and beating out “War of the Worlds” for Tom Cruise’s highest-grossing movie at the domestic box office. 

Under the lawsuit, the Yonays seek unspecified damages, including profits from Top Gun: Maverick and an injunction that would block Paramount from distributing the movie. 

According to the lawsuit, the Yonays sent Paramount a cease-and-desist letter on May 11. In response, the studio denied that its 2022 sequel was derived from the “Top Guns” story and argued filming was “sufficiently complete” by January 2020.

The case was filed on the Yonays’ behalf by Marc Toberoff, a prominent intellectual property attorney who represented the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in a similar case over copyright ownership. That lengthy legal battle was eventually decided in favor of DC Comics’ parent company, Warner Bros.

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