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Cut the Check Mayne: Terrence Howard Files Lawsuit Against 20th Century Fox Film, Claims Studio Breached Deal

Actor Terrence Howard is seeking unpaid compensation from “Empire” in a lawsuit he’s filed against 20th Century Fox Film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor is centering his case on the merchandising of the Fox drama that recently wrapped up its sixth and final season.

It appears that throughout the years, Howard had been questioning the studio executives about how they developed the idea for the “Empire” logo — a subtle profile of the lead character Lucious Lyon, played by the actor. Howard claimed that he never did a photo shoot for the logo and compared the emblem to one of his previous projects. 

Howard has claimed that the “Empire” logo was created by using the likeness of his “Hustle & Flow” character, Tyler DJay Moran,” according to TMZ

Terrence Howard in the “We Got Us” series’ 100th episode of “Empire” that aired Tuesday, April 7 on FOX-TV (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)

“The image was of Plaintiff and did not, in and of itself, raise a question,” Howard’s complaint states, before adding, “The agreement granted all rights to Plaintiff’s name and likeness to Defendant in connection with the Series.” The complaint includes this interpretation of the actor’s contract: [A]lthough the Agreement did grant publicity and promotional uses to Defendant, but only if Defendant sought and obtained approval rights to images used, the Agreement did not however permit direct endorsement of goods and services other than the Series.”

Howard, 51, claimed that he received no answer when he inquired about receiving royalties for goods bearing his name and image. Still, the “Get Rich or Die Trying” star isn’t suing for violation of his publicity rights or a false endorsement. Instead, he is suing for breach of contract and demands an accounting.

The complaint goes on to note that as Howard’s team dove deeper into their investigation, “It became clear that the image of Plaintiff used for the Logo was derived from a still shot (a precise frame) from the Paramount motion picture Hustle & Flow. The image was taken from the recording-session scene where the movie’s theme song, ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,’ is sung. The still frame was selected, reversed (face looking left, not right), and subjected to CGI that simply distilled the cinematographer’s skilled capture of the head with vibrant light and shadow.”

Howard and his lawyer Terrence Townsend argue that had Fox contacted Paramount Studios obtain a copyright license to use the image, the actor would be entitled to payments “for the use of his image.” The total amount Howard is seeking is still unknown.


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