Legendary playwright Arthur F. Haywood briefly rose from the dead today to file a lawsuit against filmmaker Oliver Stone, alleging copyright infringement over Stone’s new film, W. The recently undead dramatist claims authorship of the play Q., an 1830 satirical lampooning of former President John Quincy Adams.
While the courts were initially skeptical of the undead author’s claims, and it was universally agreed that not only would Haywood’s copyright have long expired, but also that the play predated copyright law itself, judges allowed the lawsuit to proceed on the basis that doing so would outrage many and make a good story.
With a voice box more or less totally decomposed, the undead playwright used exaggerated charades and hand gestures to communicate the nature of the infringement. Haywood treated audiences to a silent comparative scene-by-scene analysis of the two pieces, occasionally banging a loose femur on the podium for emphasis.
It slowly became clear that the plot of Q., in which the spoilt son of a soon-to-be President is coddled through life by his family’s connections, until he too becomes President, is uncomfortably similar to Stone’s story about the life of President George W. Bush. Further similarities include the dubious circumstances under which both Presidents finagled election victory, and highly criticized and abortive domestic policies. Adams left behind a career in law to be President and had many children. Bush broke the law to be President and left behind many children. Adams was a staunch abolitionist. Bush had a black cabinet member.
Even W.’s tagline echoes that of Q.’s, which reads “Aught boie of exceeding fatuity shall yet aspire to be President.” Or something.
Oliver Stone is reportedly furious at actor Richard Dreyfuss, alleging that since Dreyfuss is the only surviving cast member from Q., “he should have known better.” Dreyfuss played Adams’ Vice-President John C. Calhoun in Q., and while he generally received positive reviews, critics noted at the time that he was “some what olde for the role.”
What is certain is that Stone could have done without the controversy. Though he maintains his innocence, the jury is likely to be leery of the debacle surrounding his film JFK, which drew controversy for its overt similarity to 19th Century play AL. Undeterred, however, Stone plans to base his next Presidential movie on Reagan and his aborted plans for a ballistic missile defense system. “I’ve already got a great idea for the name,” he admitted with a sly grin.