The lawsuit centers on a line spoken by Owen Wilson about 3/4ths of the way through the film. He boldly (and comically) exclaims “The past is not dead! Actually it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”
Faulkner Literary Rights, LLC argues within the suit: “The use of the infringing quote and of William Faulkner’s name in the infringing film is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.” Faulkner’s estate requests “damages, disgorgement of profits, costs and attorney fees”.
The actual quote comes from William Faulkner’s novel Requiem for a Nun. Verbatim, it goes “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” The novel follows a turbulent relationship involving marriage, children, and subsequent consequences from Faulkner’s previous work Sanctuary.
Of course, Midnight in Paris follows Owen Wilson’s character traveling back in time several times and running into various figureheads in the literary world. It helped contribute to Woody Allen‘s resurgence in the film world (along with Vicky Christina Barcelona) and regain faith from his critics.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that literary figures are portrayed quite comically in Midnight in Paris. Another thing to consider is the fact that William Faulkner isn’t even shown. He is merely paraphrased. It makes some wonder if the estate sued Barack Obama over his use of the quote in his ‘A More Perfect Union‘ speech in March of 2008. But then again, maybe he asked permission? It’s also unfortunate to see how every time a famous intellectual is quoted, it’s seen as affiliating. It’s dreadfully doubtful Woody Allen, Sony, or even Barack Obama wished to align William Faulkner – the man – with their own ideals and goals. Using one of his most famous sayings (comically or politically) will not change that.
We’ll be sure to update you as more details surrounding this story make their way to the surface.