Original ‘Road House’ Writer Sues Amazon, Alleges Streamer Used AI to Replicate Actors’ Voices

Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House
©Amazon/Courtesy Everett Collection

R. Lance Hill, the screenwriter of the original 1989 film “Road House,” has filed a law suit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and its parent company, Amazon Studios, for copyright infringement.

In the filing obtained by Variety, Hill (who uses pen name David Lee Henry) claims Amazon ignored his ability to reclaim the rights for his 1986 screenplay as they mounted a remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal, out March 21 on Prime Video.

Hill’s lawsuit alleges that he filed a petition with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2021, requesting that the copyright return to him after United Artists’ claim was set to expire in November 2023. The suit goes on to allege that Amazon ignored his claims and proceeded with the film, using artificial intelligence to replicate the voices of actors for ADR during the SAG strike in an effort to complete the film before the Nov. 10 deadline.

This isn’t the first time the AI accusation has been floated — when producer Joel Silver was fired from Amazon in Nov. 2023 over verbal abuse, sources told Variety that the producer was actually being penalized for raising concerns over the streamer’s use of AI to complete “Road House.” Amazon strongly denied the allegation.

Hill’s suit claims the film was actually not completed until January, months after the copyright deadline had passed. It also raises issue with “key literary elements substantially similar” to Hill’s original script, including a detailed exhibit demonstrating a side-by-side of original plot points and those of Amazon’s retelling.

“On Nov. 11, 2023, the Screenplay’s copyright thereby duly reverted to Hill under the Copyright Act. Yet, in contravention of the Act’s fundamental authorial termination right, Defendants refused to acknowledge Hill’s statutory termination,” the suit reads. “Instead, Defendants steamrolled ahead with the production of a remake of the 1989 Film derived from Hill’s Screenplay.”

The WGA awarded Hill a “story by” acknowledgement on the remake and the credit, “Based on the motion picture ‘Road House,’ Screenplay by David Lee Henry and Hilary Henkin, Story by David Lee Henry.”

The suit seeks declaratory relief and aims to block distribution of the film. Amazon Studios representatives did not immediately comment.

The action remake has been mired in controversy in recent months. Director Doug Liman is boycotting the film’s release due to Amazon’s decision to not open the movie in theaters. “Road House” will premiere at SXSW on March 8, but Liman has said he will not attend.

Gyllenhaal refuted claims that the film was intended for theatrical in an interview this week with Total Film magazine, saying, “I adore Doug’s tenacity, and I think he is advocating for filmmakers, and film in the cinema, and theatrical releases. But, I mean, Amazon was always clear that it was streaming.”

The Los Angeles Times was first to report on the suit.

From Variety US