A screenwriter is suing Fox over Kingsman: The Secret Service, claiming that the movie writers stole the idea. Kingsman: The Secret Service amassed $414 million at the box office and lead to a sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. While the second film didn't perform as well as the first, there was a razor-thin margin between the two. For fans, there's still reason to believe that a Kingsman Universe could be created.
Based on the comic book created by Mark Millar and David Gibbons, Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin and his recruitment into the clandestine organization called the Kingsman. Tying together elements of James Bond films with heavy and violent action sequences, the film and comic book created a darkly humorous world rich with takes on everything from the British spy genre to modern celebrity culture. The second film Kingsman: The Golden Circle took Eggsy and his comrades to the United States where they met the Statesmen, the Kingsman's American counterparts. Both films were a different look at spy organizations and featured incredible talents like Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Samuel L Jackson.
Now, according to THR, a screenwriter is claiming that the idea for Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on his ideas and not the Millar and Gibbons comic book. Screenwriter R. Spencer Balentine claims that Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on The Keepers, a screenplay he wrote in 2003. According to Balentine, he submitted it to a screenwriting contest in 2004 where the project gained traction and became one of the top 10 selected, which meant it would be considered for adaptation into a comic book. Balentine claims that the film's protagonists and antagonists all share striking similarities to his character's creations, from their disdain for humanity to their beverage preferences.
Despite the similarities, there are a number of differences between the Kingsman: The Secret Service comic book and Balentine's claims in his own screenplay. The themes of the Knights of the Round Table (very familiar to Kingsman fans) as well as Eggsy's dog and the overall theme of the story, which focuses on public service. According to the claim, Balentine's original script focused on overcoming humble origins to achieve greatness. Balentine is currently seeking $5 million in damages while Fox hasn't commented on the complaint.
While there are similarities that's not particularly surprising. Stories about spies have shared several common tropes since people first began writing about them. The theme of a young person being recruited into a clandestine agency can be seen in projects all across the film and literary world from James Bond stories to Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. Still, it's a worrisome concern and a tough case for the copyright lawyers, particularly given how the timeline looks from the outside.
Still, it's important to remember that even with the similarities there are still a number of differences. It's perfectly possible to create the same story when two different groups of people are consuming the same cultural narratives. The Kingsman films, particularly the second film, have earned some backlash from critics but there's no reason to believe that they share anything more than coincidence with Balentine's script. Much like the greatest spy stories, one can hope it's a case of mistaken identity, but time will ultimately tell.