Back in February, when the world was riding high on The Shape Of Water and its timeless love story between a woman and a fish-man, the estate of playwright Paul Zindel decided that the film seemed a little familiar. Zindel’s estate sued director Guillermo del Toro, accusing him of lifting plot elements from Zindel’s play Let Me Hear You Whisper, which centers on a very introverted woman working as a janitor at a lab who develops a relationship with a dolphin that is being experimented on. Del Toro vehemently denied the accusation, noting that he constantly talks about his influences, so he’s not the sort of person who would steal a plot element without telling everybody about it, and also that he had never heard of Zindel’s play before the lawsuit brought it to his attention.
Today, as reported by Deadline, a federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit from Zindel’s estate with prejudice. The Deadline story quotes Fox Searchlight’s thorough defense of the film, which noted that Zindel’s play is a “straightforward story” that lacks “decidedly adult meld of genres” that The Shape Of Water has, including the “romantic and sexual relationship” between the woman and the fish-man (Zindel’s play doesn’t have a sex scene between the woman and the dolphin).
On top of that, Fox added that the only real similarity between the play and the film is based on the “non-protectable idea” of a person having a relationship of any kind with an animal/mythical creature, which has been seen in everything from Free Willy to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Del Toro, meanwhile, pointed out that he has written dozens of screenplays and received no prior complaints about plagiarism, which evidently provided some strong support for his case.