Amazon Sued by Road House Creator, Who Says Streamer Used AI to Fake Actors’ Voices

By: Beth Moreton | Published: Mar 15, 2024

With the remake of “Road House” set to launch on Amazon Prime on March 21, 2024, the film has already been surrounded by deep controversy.

The original screenwriter of the 1989 version is accusing Amazon of copyright infringement, which has put the release of the new version into question. 

Road House Is about a UFC Fighter

For those who haven’t seen the original version, “Road House” is about a smart, scruffy bouncer at a notoriously rough Southern bar. The lead was originally Patrick Swayze.

Jake Gyllenhaal at a premiere. He is wearing a black coat and has a neutral expression on his face.

Source: Siebbi/Wikimedia Commons

The new version is set to star Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead role, but there are some questions as to who holds the rights to the film.

The Original Screenwriter Filed a Lawsuit

Screenwriter David Lee Henry, whose real name is R. Lance Hill, wrote the original screenplay in 1986, which inspired the 1989 film.

Patrick Swayze in the 1989 film “Road House”. He is leaning against a wall and looking down.

Source: MGM/YouTube

Hill is suing Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Amazon Studios for copyright infringement, as he believes that Amazon has overstepped the copyright agreement, according to Variety.

A Petition Was Filed in 2021

This claim isn’t new, as R. Lance Hill filed a petition with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2021, where he requested that the rights should go to him when the initial claim with United Artists’ was going to expire in November 2023.

A scene from “Road House”. Two men are facing each other, and the one on the right has his hands on his hips They are next to a pool.

Source: Prime Video/YouTube

Hill says that Amazon ignored it and went ahead with the new film anyway. Hill also says that Amazon has used AI instead of the actor’s voices.

R. Lance Hill Alerted United Artists About the Lawsuit

It could be said that United Artists wasn’t aware that R. Lance Hill had filed the petition; however, this is not the case.

The United Artists logo. Underneath the logo, it says ‘United Artists An MGM Company.’

Source: United Artists/Wikimedia Commons

Hill’s lawsuit states that he made United Artists aware of what was going on and told them of his plans to get the rights to “Road House.”

There Is Doubt Over How R. Lance Hill Wrote the Road House Script

The outcome of R. Lance Hill’s lawsuit is likely going to depend on whether he had been hired by United Artists to write the script.

A scene from “Road House” 1989. The scene features Patrick Swayze’s character looking at something that isn’t in the shot.

Source: MGM/YouTube

Hill maintains that he had written the script first, and United Artists had then obtained the 1986 grant once the script was complete. However, if this is found to be untrue, it could make it difficult for Hill to win the lawsuit. 


Amazon Allegedly Used AI Due to the SAG Strike

In 2023, the SAG strike put a limitation on many productions no matter what stage they were at, essentially shutting Hollywood down, according to Harper’s Bazaar

A group of people on the SAG-AFTRA strike. There is a group of people holding a yellow banner that has ‘SAG-AFTRA’ on and Elizabeth Warren is on a bandstand addressing a crowd.

Source: Office of US Senator Elizabeth Warren/Wikimedia Commons

Because of this, Amazon decided to use AI to recreate the actors’ voices, which was something that went against the bargaining agreements of SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America. 


Amazon Did Not Meet the Copyright Deadline

Despite the copyright running out on Nov. 10, 2023, and with R. Lance Hill stating this meant he had the rights to “Road House” on Nov. 11, 2023, this deadline was ignored.

A building with the ‘Amazon’ logo on.

Source: Yender Gonzalez/Unsplash

However, Hill is alleging that Amazon didn’t meet this deadline and that the film wasn’t finished until January 2024, and if true, means Amazon has broken the copyright terms.


Others Have Also Accused Amazon of Using AI

R. Lance Hill isn’t the only person accusing Amazon of using AI, as producer Joel Silver was fired by them for this accusation, according to Variety

Joel Silver at a premiere. He is talking to a reporter and is wearing an orange suit. There is a crowd of people behind him.

Source: Franz Richter/Wikimedia Commons

At the time, it was announced that he was fired due to verbal abuse he had used on film sets. However, some sources claim that he was fired for raising the alarm about Amazon’s use of AI, something Amazon completely denies. 


The Road House Remake Acknowledges the Original

With R. Lance Hill not only accusing Amazon of copyright infringement but also of copying his original script, the remake has acknowledged Hill’s work.

Some of the credits for the 2024 film “Road House”. The credits state that the film is based on “Road House” and that it was written by David Lee Henry.

Source: Movie Trailers Source/YouTube

The credits of the remake of “Road House” apparently say “based on the motion picture ‘Road House,’ Screenplay by David Lee Henry and Hilary Henkin, Story by David Lee Henry,” according to The Hollywood Reporter


Amazon Denies the Allegations

Despite numerous people coming forward and stating the streamer has used AI, Amazon strongly denies this.

A TV with Amazon Prime loaded in the background. The person controlling the TV is using an Amazon Fire TV remote.

Source: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

The company has said that the allegations are completely false and that the voices are the real actors. Amazon has also said that they are looking forward to defending themselves against the allegations.


A Source Has Said That Some AI Was Used

Amazon may have denied the AI allegations, but a source close to Amazon Studios has said that some AI was used, but not how R. Lance Hill is claiming.

A control board with an AI button.

Source: Igor Omilaev/Unsplash

The source has stated that any AI that was used, was used “during early cuts of the film” and that studio executives had “instructed the filmmakers to remove any AI or nonunion performers from the final cut,” as stated in The Los Angeles Times


AI-Generated Audio Can Be Hard to Detect

It may be up to audiences to see if they can tell if the audio is AI-generated when they watch the new remake of “Road House.”

A woman sat at her desk listening to an audio recording. The recording screen is open on her computer and she is wearing a set of headphones.

Source: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

However, as NBC News has reported, AI-generated audio is hard to detect in terms of its legitimacy, so only time will tell whether R. Lance Hill is telling the truth or not.