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Plagerism Lawsuit Over ‘Shape of Water’ Dismissed, Guillermo del Toro Deemed the Creator

— April 9, 2021

A lawsuit involving plagiarism allegations and Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winner ‘The Shape of Water’ was dismissed earlier this month.

A copyright lawsuit over Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winner ‘The Shape of Water’ was recently dismissed. The suit was originally filed by the family of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Zindel over claims that del Toro stole from Zindel’s play, ‘Let Me Hear You Whisper.’ Both stories “involve plots centered on a creature imprisoned in a science research facility.” The suit was filed in 2018, right before the Oscar voting deadline. ‘The Shape of Water’ went on to win Best Picture and Best Director.

Lady Justice; image by Tingey Injury Law Firm, via
Lady Justice; image by Tingey Injury Law Firm, via

When commenting on the dismissal, a spokesperson for Searchlight Pictures issued the following statement:

“David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of ‘Let Me Hear You Whisper,’ acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded. He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of ‘The Shape of Water.’ Any similarity between the two works is coincidental.”

Prior to the dismissal, the lawsuit faced an uphill climb, especially after U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson rejected it and ruled “the basic premise of an employee at a scientific facility deciding to free a creature that is subjected to scientific experiments is too general to be protected.” In 2020, the copyright claims were revived when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that “additional evidence, including expert testimony, would aid in the objective literary analysis needed to determine the similarities between ‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Let Me Hear You Whisper.’” From there, a July trial date was set and the prosecution and defense teams were “scheduled to present expert reports and witness designations” this month. However, the case is now being dismissed altogether.

It’s important to note that ‘The Shape of Water’ was the center of plagiarism claims soon after it hit theaters. In fact, in February 2018, French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet accused del Toro of “copying the dance scene from his movie ‘Delicatessen.’” At the time, Jeunet had an interview with Ouest-France, a French publication. In it, he said:

“I told [del Toro]: ‘You have a lot of imagination, a lot of talent. Why go and [steal] the ideas of others? [del Toro] said, ‘We owe Terry Gilliam everything.’ According to [del Toro], he does not steal from others, it is Terry Gilliam who has influenced us all. When he [directs] the scene of the couple sitting on the edge of the bed dancing with their feet, with the musical in the background on TV, it is so copied and pasted [from] ‘Delicatessen’ that there is a moment when I say to myself that he lacks self-respect.”


‘Shape of Water’ Plagiarism Lawsuit Dismissed: Guillermo del Toro Is the ‘True Creator’

Guillermo del Toro named ‘true creator’ of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends

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