Stolen Martian? Russian screenwriter claims Hollywood’s blockbuster is plagiarism, goes to court

©  20th Century Fox
Though Astronaut Mark Watney, Matt Damon’s character from the popular movie ‘The Martian,’ may have had his share of bad luck on the Red Planet, the film may now be in a non-fictional trouble, as a Russian author claims the screenplay is literary piracy.

A Russian screenwriter has filed a claim in a Moscow court, asserting that the idea for ‘The Martian’ directed by Ridley Scott was stolen from him. Mikhail Raskhodnikov alleges that he wrote the story the film was based on years before the US author and demands that copyright for the 2015 film be assigned to him.

The court will hear the plagiarism case this month, a court spokesperson told the media, saying that the screenwriter is demanding 20th Century Fox CIS cease distribution of the motion picture and pay him 50 million rubles ($800,000) in moral damages. Raskhodnikov is also demanding a public apology.

The author claims that it is he who originally wrote the script and that he had produced a film having the same name in Russia years before the Hollywood blockbuster based on Andy Weir’s bestselling book hit world screens.

Russian cosmonaut Maksim Suraev backed the claims in an interview with Vesti FM, saying Raskhodnikov had read his blogs and asked for advice and clarifications in conversations in which he had shared his experience and emotions of what it feels like being in space. The two had even been talked about featuring Suraev in the film, the cosmonaut told the radio station, adding that he thought the American project was “pure plagiarism.”

Raskhodnikov’s lawyer, Shota Gorgadze, said that the outline, plot, and characters of the US Martian are “very similar” to the ones allegedly fabulated by his client in 2007. He asserted that the film company had probably stolen the idea after screenwriter had offered the project’s concept to 20th Century Fox CIS at that time, postulating that the film industry giant may have illegally assigned the story to a different author through its international channels.

They have already directed their complaint to the film company’s regional office, the lawyer said, but the company allegedly refuted the claim, saying that the American author of the story had never been to Russia, didn’t speak its language, and had never seen Raskhodnikov’s script.

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I have been working on film adaptation of my story for seven years, and finished filming it in 2012, but unfortunately it’s still in post-production. Now it’s a big question whether the audience will want to watch my Martian,” Raskhodnikov told Russian news portal, adding that he would fight till a happy end, “just like the story’s main character.”

The Russian screenwriter allegedly started working on his film project about a man left alone to survive on Mars around the same time as the programmer from the US wrote his sci-fi story. Weir first published it on his website chapter by chapter, and then – following requests from the growing number of fans – made the full story available on Amazon’s Kindle for the minimal download price of 99 cents. The rights for both the book and the film were then bought from the author by a major book publisher and a film-making company.