Judge Blocks Former Lynyrd Skynyrd Drummer's Planned Biopic

Artimus Pyle's 'Street Survivors' violates consent order band members signed in 1988

A judge awarded Lynyrd Skynyrd a permanent injunction to block their former drummer Artimus Pyle's unauthorized biopic about the Southern rockers. Credit: Archive Photos

A judge awarded Lynyrd Skynyrd a permanent injunction to block an unauthorized biopic about the Southern rockers.

Production on Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash – based on the life of former Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle – will permanently shut down after the judge decided that the film violates a consent order that Pyle signed with his band mates in 1988.

Under that agreement, Pyle was given permission to tell his own life story, but use of the band's name as well as the rights of those killed in the 1977 crash – singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines – were off-limits.

In June, as production on the biopic neared, Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, singer and Van Zant's brother Johnny Van Zant and the Van Zant and Gaines estates filed a lawsuit against Pyle and Cleopatra Records over the planned biopic. Following a two-day, juryless trial in July, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet agreed Monday that Street Survivors would cause "irreparable harm" to the Skynyrd name as well as the late members' estates.

"None of the defendants received the requisite authorization under the terms of the consent order in depiction of (Ronnie) Van Zant or Gaines or in the use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd name, and therefore all have violated the consent order," Sweet, who also oversaw the 1988 consent order, wrote in his judgment.

However, as Sweet noted, Cleopatra Records is still allowed to make a Skynyrd biopic; it's just the involvement of Pyle that violates the 1988 agreement.

"Cleopatra is prohibited from making its movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd when its partner [Pyle] substantively contributes to the project in a way that, in the past, he willingly bargained away the very right to do just that; in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as 'free as a bird' to make and distribute its work," Sweet wrote in his decision (via The Hollywood Reporter).

"Cleopatra is free to make a movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd and/or about the plane crash. What Cleopatra is not free to do, however, is to make such a movie in concert and participation with Pyle in violation of the restrictions imposed on him by the Consent Order."

The Street Survivors screenplay was penned following an extensive interview Cleopatra conducted with Pyle, who was promised 5 percent of net profits for his role as consultant and co-producer on the film. If Street Survivors were to be revived, it would need to sever all connections to Pyle, including the script, as under the current circumstances, the company is also bound to the 1988 consent order.