Acclaimed Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro has been accused of stealing the plot of his Oscar-nominated “The Shape of Water” from a 1969 play written by Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel without crediting the late writer’s work.
David Zindel claims that his father’s story is the one told in del Toro’s film, which follows a janitor who falls for a captive dolphin in a research facility and tries to set it free, The Guardian reported. “The Shape of Water” received 13 Oscar nominations, including best picture, best director, and best original screenplay.
“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 wrote in an email to the newspaper.
Zindel’s estate alleges that del Toro’s movie cribbed the general concept, specific plot points and certain characters from “Let Me Hear You Whisper,” which ran as a television production in 1969. The similarities are uncanny.
Both stories feature a female cleaner who falls for an aquatic creature being subjected to experiments; they both sneak food to the creature and dance with a mop in front of the tank as a love song plays in the background; they both learn to communicate with the creature; they both learn about plans to kill the creature; and they both hatch plans to rescue the creature by sneaking it out in a laundry cart.
In a statement, Fox Searchlight debunked the claims: “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.”