Flennoy O. Flippen a 59 year old resident from Los Angeles, California recently posted a plea for justice on his Facebook page. Flippen is accusing one of his former teachers of stealing his homework assignment back in 1972. He says that homework assignment was the original blue print for the movie Star Wars and that he is the father of the Star Wars series.
A preposterous idea to many, but Flippen stands by his story and has done so for nearly 4 decades. It all began back in 1972 when one of Flippen’s teachers took a special interest in one of his assignments. His sister Marya says that Flippen was excited and encouraged when his teacher became enthralled with the storyline that he turned in for his class assignment that year. For a young black boy growing up in DuQuoin, Illinois in the foster care system, this type of encouragement gave him a great deal of confidence. He put all his effort in that assignment and was going to use that idea to make it big.
Flippen said his teacher was extremely interested in those first drafts and it came as a shock when those pages mysteriously came up missing. Flippen couldn’t help but suspect that his teacher had stolen those pages along with the story idea.
What was even more upsetting was the day that he seen his story in the local book store and devastated to discover that it was under a different authors name. Flippen has spent years sharing his frustrations with anyone who would listen and feels that he has been duped.
He believes the block buster movie and popular book series was based upon the blue prints of that story that he began writing back in the 8th grade.
But, according to Wikipedia, “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker is the title of a science fiction novel credited to George Lucas but said to be actually ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster and first published on November 12, 1976 by Del Rey.
The book, is based upon Lucas’ original screenplay for the first Star Wars film and has been published under several titles, first as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, later as simply Star Wars, and most recently as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, reflecting the retitling of the film that occurred following the announcement that Lucas would film the first three episodes of the Star Wars Saga. It was published about six months before the original Star Wars movie was released.
So the question is did someone really steal Flippen’s story idea and is it possible that Flippen was the original author?
It’s not the first time that someone has claimed to have had a story stolen, in fact it happens all too frequently. A new book or movie comes out and almost immediately lawsuits start popping up. Lawsuits filled with allegation that some element of the book or movie was stolen from their story idea.
Entertainment attorney Neville Johnson takes on cases of stolen ideas in Hollywood and says, “It happens all the time with regularity”. “The reason you don’t hear about it is because of the politics involved.
Another scenario is that Flippen’s story idea may have just been very similar to another’s writers creation. A lot of story tellers, writers struggle with originality, that is because stories, songs, ideas, artistic expression, words and even screen plays often overlay one another. Some people go as far to say that there are just no new ideas or stories out there just a remix or altered versions. In fact, many writers will tell you that their are many common elements that they use when putting together their story lines. Could Flippen’s story have just been a similar interpretation of the same idea?
Bottom line, Flennoy O. Flippen full heartedly believes that Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker was his story. His wife Ursel says that she can relate to her husband’s loss, when she was 12, her teacher took the first self portrait that she had ever done and sold it as her own. These experiences have made the Flippen’s feel very guarded.
Flippen has tried to get an attorney to take his case, but without any proof of his allegations, it is a story that doesn’t hold a lot of clout. But, tell that to Flippen who for the past 4 decades has suffered from gut wrenching knots in his stomach every time he sees a movie poster, advisement or any of the other memorabilia based off the Star Wars series. He can’t help but wonder how different his life would have been if it had been his name on the credits.
Even if Flippen can prove it was his idea, the fact remains Federal copyright law doesn’t cover ideas — only the specific expression of an idea. That means by simply changing a few things in someone’s script, someone else can make it different enough to legally call it their own.
Flennoy O. Flippen continues to stand by his story and plans to continue the fight to bring justice to his experience, he’s even taken a few classes on business law. He took those courses in hopes of one day putting together a defense for this case. Flippen is determined and although he doesn’t have any formal writing skills, he pushes forward and spends much of his time blogging his thoughts and ideas.