Tom Cruise’s Film ‘Mena’ Embroiled In Legal Battle Like Documentary ‘Amazing Grace?’

By Kitin Miranda | 2 years ago
Tom Cruise’s Film ‘Mena’ Embroiled In Legal Battle Like Documentary ‘Amazing Grace?’
Tom Cruise at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International in San Diego, California. July 20, 2013. Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore/Uploaded by Gage

When it comes to movies and films that are based on real life stories, and especially if the film is based on someone’s life, one of the major problems that a movie production can run into in this case is if they were not able to get complete and total legal permission from either the person on whose life a movie or television project would be based on, and if they hadn’t managed to get permission from the owners of that person’s estate if that person is already deceased. However, this doesn’t only go for the source material, but this rule also holds true with regards to anything created by the person in question. Recently, this has become a major issue in Hollywood, which can be seen in the fact that two movies have run into these kinds of problems, with the latest one being a Tom Cruise project, in which he is set to portray a drug trafficker turned confidential informant. Read on to learn more about Tom Cruise’s project- what legal difficulties it is currently facing, and why this is becoming a big issue in Hollywood today.

Tom Cruise, fresh off from a successful run at the box office, thanks to “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” is gearing up to portray a drug trafficker turned informant named Adler “Barry” Seal in a film called “Mena,” which is based on Barry’s life.


Barry, according to The Advocate, was arrested in 1983, and took a plea deal in which he infiltrated the Medellin cartel and helped out at a Salvation Army halfway home.

He was rumored to be a key witness against Medellin Cartel leader Pablo Escobar and was assassinated by members of the cartel that he had helped to try bring down.

However, according to reports on The Hollywood Reporter and The Advocate, the project, which is named after a town where Seal operated in, is currently intertwined in a legal battle with Seal’s eldest daughter from his first marriage, Lisa Seal Frigon, who is the current owner of Seal’s estate, including the rights to his life story.

According to her, Universal Pictures, who is also backing the project, only came up with an agreement with Seal’s third wife and children, who are not the current holders of the estate.


Because of this, she is currently suing Universal, halting the progress of the movie, especially as she claims that the movie’s script has twisted the truth regarding the portrayal of her father.

This comes right on the heels of another case, in which singer Aretha Franklin, according to The Hollywood Reporter, complained against the documentary “Amazing Grace,” as she claimed that they had used footage of her concert without asking her permission. She then later on won the case.

However, this became quite controversial as it was also discovered that Franklin herself did not own the rights to the concert at all, as it belonged to Sydney Pollock, who originally shot her concert back then.

These cases, are two good examples of how blurred the lines are when it comes to who truly owns the copyright or the rights to a piece of work, or source material.

Greater clarification of this in the future may need to be worked out by by Hollywood producers, film makers and artists, so that messy legal battles may be prevented in the future.

Photo Source:Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore/Uploaded by Gage

About the author

Kitin Miranda enjoys writing, learning new things, telling stories, and doing theater. When she is not busy with her many projects, she can be found reading a good book, writing poetry or fiction, updating her blog, discovering new food places around her neighborhood, or watching American or Asian TV shows.