Oscar Frontrunner The Shape Of Water Accused Of Plagiarism

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Fresh off 13 Oscar nominations, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water has hit a snag. David Zindel, son of playwright Paul Zindel, has accused the director of plagiarizing the story from his father's 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper.

"We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognizing it and coming to us for the rights," Zindel, who runs his father’s estate after he passed away in 2003, told the Guardian. "A lot of people are telling us they are struck by the substantial similarities. We are very grateful to Paul Zindel’s fans for bringing this to our attention."

Both stories are about cleaners who fall in love with a creature being experimented on for top secret military reason. Both stories see the creature escape in a hamper, and both stories feature a fellow janitor who helps the main character pull it off. However, The Shape Of Water also has some big differences from the play, such as the addition of Richard Jenkins's character, the main character's gay friend, Giles. In The Shape Of Water, the main character is also mute, using sign language to communicate with both her peers and the creature.

Plus, there's the fact that, as the Guardian points out, a recent interview with del Toro in Written By tells the whole story of the film's inception. Apparently, the idea sprang from a suggestion from writer Daniel Kraus ("a janitor that kidnaps an amphibian-man from a secret government facility"), and Kraus also mentions it on his website.

In response to the accusations, Fox Searchlight issued a statement to the Guardian:

"Guillermo del Toro has never read nor seen Mr Zindel’s play in any form. Mr del Toro has had a 25 year career during which he has made 10 feature films and has always been very open about acknowledging his influences. If the Zindel family has questions about this original work we welcome a conversation with them."

Refinery29 has reached out to Guillermo del Toro for comment.

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