The widow and son of the man who wrote the 1983 article that inspired the original “Top Gun” is suing Paramount Pictures over its sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick.”
In a lawsuit filed in California federal court on Monday, Shosh Yonay and Yuval Yonay claim the rights to the Ehud Yonay story reverted to them on January 24, 2020. The lawsuit contends that Paramount, which produced and distributed the sequel , did not reacquire those rights until the film was released in May.
A Paramount Pictures spokesperson said in a statement that the allegations “are without merit, and we will vigorously defend ourselves.”
The lawsuit says Paramount has been told since 2018 that the Yonays intended to reclaim the copyright under a provision that allows artists to do so after 35 years. According to the lawsuit, the Yonays sent a cease and desist letter in early May to which Paramount responded that the film was sufficiently completed by January 24, 2020, and was not derived from Yonay’s article. The Yonays counter that the film is a spinoff of the 1983 article and that “Top Gun: Maverick” didn’t end until May 2021, more than a year after the rights expired.
Yonay’s original article about the Navy Fighter Weapons School training program and two course pilots, the hotshot “Yogi” and his friend “Possum”, appeared in the May 1983 issue of California magazine. Shortly thereafter, Paramount Pictures acquired exclusive rights to the film. “Top Gun” was released in 1986 and became the No. 1 movie of the year.
The sequel has been in development for years and was originally slated for a July 2019 release, but has been delayed multiple times — first for normal reasons, then due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ finally opened on May 27, spent two weeks at the top of the box office and has already made over $557 million in ticket sales worldwide.