Guitarist Gary Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant’s brother and lead singer Johnny Van Zant and the estates of other Skynyrd members killed in the crash were among those who filed the lawsuit against Pyle and co-producer Cleopatra Records Friday in Manhattan.
When Pyle announced plans to turn his life story into a biopic, he acknowledged that Lynyrd Skynyrd had not authorized the film, preventing the movie from incorporating the band’s music. The film was initially titled Free Bird, but a cease-and-desist notice forced a name change to Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash.
In the lawsuit, obtained by Rolling Stone, Lynyrd Skynyrd argued that Pyle “is free to exploit his own personal life story” for the film, but the biopic is in danger of violating “a 1988 consent order” that members – Pyle included – agreed to concerning control of the Lynyrd Skynyrd copyright.
The consent order states, “No such exploitation of life story rights is authorized which purports to be a history of the ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ band, as opposed to the life story of the applicable individual.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Street Survivors “may contain a potentially inaccurate or skewed portrayal of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s story as filtered solely through the eyes of Pyle masquerading as the ‘True Story’ of a defining moment in the band’s history.”
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Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash is reportedly in production now. A July 11th court date has been scheduled for the lawsuit.
Pyle “abruptly” left Lynyrd Skynyrd following an August 1991 concert and was officially terminated from the band soon after. Initial attempts to reach Pyle were unsuccessful.
The lawsuit notes that, since his departure, Pyle has had “numerous run-ins with the law,” including pleading guilty “to charges of attempted capital sexual battery and to lewdly fondling, assaulting or simulating sexual acts on two female children, ages 4 and 8.”
“We want this to be a good movie that tells a very passionate, intimate story about the music and the band and a rise and fall that happened so suddenly,” Pyle, who survived the 1977 plane crash, said last year. “I want the movie to portray my band members the way they were: real, funny people who loved the music, loved the success that allowed us to be able to travel the world and play for kings and queens all over this planet.”