Alex Gibney And George Hickenlooper Fighting Over Casino Jack Abramoff

For once it isn't M. Night Shyamalan getting stuck into a bitter dispute over a film's title (see The Woods/The Village and the Avatars) but some fresh meat. The combatants this time are documentarian Alex Gibney and sometime documentarian, sometime fiction filmmaker George Hickenlooper. At this moment, they're both at work with films about the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff – Gibney a doc, Hickenlooper a drama set to star Kevin Spacey – and both of the films are claiming the title Casino Jack.

A cease and desist letter has been sent to Hickenlooper from the legal representatives of Gibney, threatening "any and all necessary action" if Casino Jack the second doesn't budge over and find a new handle. What could "any and all necessary action" actually amount to?

Some excerpts from the letter and from Hickenlooper's stinging response coming right up after the break.

Why should it matter if there's two films with one title? Here's the legalese on the matter, straight from the letter itself:

While there seems little reason to doubt that your mimicry of the Film's title is knowing and intentional, there can be no doubt of the likelihood of confusion and resulting harm to the film-going public and to our clients if you do not immediately cease all use of the title Casino Jack in connection with your film.

I defy anybody reading this to go out in the street and find a stranger with any idea that Hickenlooper's film even exists within the next hour. Heck, I'd defy you to find one that knows about Gibney's film either.

Casino Jack is quite a good title, there's no getting away from it, but Movieline have spotted that the IMDB listing for Gibney's film is actually Casino Jack and the United States of Money. They also have a sharp rebuttal from Hickenlooper himself:

He is suing us to change the name of our film despite the fact that he publicly never registered his. He says we're infringing on his publicity. What publicity?


Whoever is in the right here, and whoever is not, I think we should be rather more concerned with the imminent arrival of what could be, fingers crossed, a pair of very interesting pictures. On pedigree at least, I'm thinking Gibney's picture will have the edge and look forward to finding out how it plays next January at Sundance.