Earlier this year it was revealed that the BBC would be making a film about Grand Theft Auto. The film is part of the BBC’s ‘Make It Digital’ initiative (which looks to get young people involved in technology) so it won’t cover the many criminal exploits of the series’ in-game protagonists. Instead, the 90-minute showing will actually focus on how the first Grand Theft Auto game came to be and it will also address the conflict between Rockstar Games’ co-founder/president Sam Houser and Jack Thompson, a former Florida attorney.
The conflict between Thompson and Houser stemmed from the fact that Thompson – like many people at the time – didn’t agree with Grand Theft Auto‘s violent subject matter. Although the GTA games with their heists, murders, and car chases, are all rated for adult audiences, people were still concerned that the game would fall into the hands of minors and so Thompson and many irate parents and campaigners did everything they could to ban it.
Given just how popular the Grand Theft Auto series is, it’s unsurprising that the BBC managed to enlist Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton to play Houser and Thompson, respectively. And no sooner had that been announced, the movie began shooting in South Africa, ready for a rumored release date later this year. There has been a spanner thrown in the works, however, as Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two has filed a lawsuit against the BBC over the upcoming film.
In a statement to Polygon, Take-Two explained:
“Rockstar Games has had no involvement with this project. Our goal is to ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC’s pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games. We have attempted multiple times to resolve this matter with the BBC without any meaningful resolution. It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property and unfortunately in this case litigation was necessary.”
While the BBC has declined to comment (yet), it’s not hard to understand why Take-Two has taken such a drastic measure to shut the thing down. The film, which is said to be titled Game Changer, is based on a book by David Kushner called Jacked: The unauthorised behind-the-scenes story of Grand Theft Auto. Not only is the book ‘unauthorised’, as its title states, but it was also written with no cooperation from Rockstar Games whatsoever. In the book’s author’s note, Kushner explains that “the current helm at Rockstar declined to participate in this book” and instead, as a review on Eurogamer notes, the book was written from the perspective of Jack Thompson.
If the film is being made, as Take-Two claims, with the BBC refusing to work with them, this is incredibly concerning. Not only is Jack Thompson incredibly biased against the Grand Theft Auto series, Sam Houser, and Rockstar, but he was also disbarred in 2009 for making “false statements of material fact” which makes him an unreliable source for the movie’s subject matter.
The movie has been picking up interest from Grand Theft Auto fans and opponents alike, though, so it would be a shame to see it all thrown away. Hopefully the BBC and Take-Two can work it out and the movie can go ahead as planned.