In 1996, David Cronenberg directed a controversial film, starring James Spader and Holly Hunter, about people with a sexual fetish for car crashes. While the movie was well-received by critics, it was quickly forgotten by most people. That is, until 2004, when Paul Haggis directed a little ensemble drama that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and which just happened to share the name of Cronenberg’s earlier work — Crash. At the time, Cronenberg was none too pleased, reportedly proclaiming: “Functionally, it’s stupid. Once they’re both on the DVD shelves, there’s going to be confusion.”
He’d get no disagreement from the tweenage girl who asks her father to rent 2008’s Twilight, only to have him return with a gritty 1998 crime drama starring Paul Newman and Gene Hackman, with nary a pale, brooding vampire in sight. Nor from the Scorsese buff who puts the 2004 Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator on his Christmas list, only to have batty Aunt Edna buy him the forgettable 1985 Christopher Reeve film about an airmail pilot who crash-lands on a mountain full of hungry wolves. Nor from the loincloth enthusiast who thinks he’s found 2000’s Gladiator on TV, only to discover a young Cuba Gooding, Jr. navigating the dangerous world of illegal underground boxing.
In each of these cases, the second of two identically-named films became better known and more commonly associated with its title. But none of these names were particularly unique or memorable in and of themselves. And none of these cases of title reuse prompted legal action. Cronenberg, the director of the first Crash, said at the time that “The last thing a creative person wants is litigation, which is anti-creative.”
Of course, not everyone in the entertainment industry shares Cronenberg’s aversion to lawsuits (which is good, because otherwise I’d be out of business). This brings us to 2010’s entry in Hollywood’s “Think Green” contest, this time starring dueling magicians. Continue reading the full story . . . »