Jerry Heller Is Still Ruthless. He Sues Dre & Cube For Straight Outta Compton Biopic Profits
2015 film blockbuster Straight Outta Compton has developed a cultural appreciation for the music, careers, and social obstacles of N.W.A., as well as its individual members. In addition to becoming the highest-grossing music biopic, several of the group’s 1980s singles have charted at new highs on Billboard charts. Attention has not only been brought to the film cast, but the artists that they play—including band members Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella.
However, one person portrayed in Straight Outta Compton is deeply unhappy. Played in the film by actor Paul Giamatti, the real-life Jerry Heller—who was hired to run Ruthless Records by Eazy-E, is taking action. TMZ reports that the music industry veteran is suing film producers for an estimated $110 million.
More specifically, the longtime Ruthless Records exec is suing former clients Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, as well as wife of his former business partner, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (Tomica Woods-Wright). All three parties are producers of the F. Gary Gray-directed film. Heller, who—according to the film, was fired by Eazy-E shortly before the rapper’s death, is reportedly also suing NBC Universal.
The film chronicles Heller’s development of N.W.A., and in Heller’s legal team’s eyes, misrepresents his legacy and defames his character. He cites that his own firing, as well as other scenes involving Ice Cube, as such.
According to HipHopDX, Heller’s lawsuit itemizes $75 million in punitive damages, $35 million in compensatory funds and all the profits from the film, whose budget was approximately $28 million.
In addition to an array of recent interviews speaking out against Straight Outta Compton, the Cleveland, Ohio born Heller previously published his own memoir, Ruthless. In it, he wrote his side of financial and personal disputes between Eazy, Dre, Cube, The D.O.C., and others. While the film disagrees with many elements of the biography, Heller’s suit maintains that the memoir was used as basis—without permission or compensation—for key parts of the film. Specifically, the report claims the arranged early ’90s meeting with Dr. Dre and Eazy-E is one of these elements. In the film, is Suge Knight—not Dr. Dre—who shows up to release the Compton, California rapper/producer from his Ruthless Records contract.
The reported suit is the latest in a series of conflicts between Heller and former N.W.A. members. Ice Cube attacked Jerry by name in his group diss, 1991’s “No Vaseline.” In Heller’s memoir, the now-retired exec points out Cube’s especially antisemitic lyrics about his onetime manager, as well as other misgivings of former clients. Additionally, Heller’s likeness and relationship with Eazy were spoofed in early ’90s Dre videos, including “‘F’ With Dre Day.”
Who do you think will win this ruling?