Creators of Spinal Tap to turn dial to ‘11’ in $400m lawsuit

Harry Shearer joined by fellow band members and director Rob Reiner claim profits not fully shared

The band members from cult rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap have agreed to reunite in a bid they claim will ensure a $400 million (€375.6 million) lawsuit against media firm Vivendi "goes to 11".

Three of the film’s co-creators and stars have agreed to get back together to join co-star Harry Shearer in a suit against the French firm, the parent company of Universal Music.

Shearer – who also voices characters from The Simpsons such as Ned Flanders and Mr Burns – was suing Vivendi for $125 million, claiming it has not properly shared profits since buying the rights to the film in 1989.

The addition of the rest of the “band members” – famed for their pretentious musical posturing and catty infighting – has boosted the size of the claim to $400 million.


The off-screen reunion brings together the characters of bassist Derek Smalls (played by Shearer), lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), lead vocalist and guitarist David St Hubbins (Michael McKean), as well as director and narrator Rob Reiner.

They claim Vivendi manipulated accounting data, while ignoring contractually obligated accounting and reporting processes, to deny them their rightful stake in the film’s profits.

The complaint alleges that between 1989 and 2006, Vivendi reported that the total income from soundtrack music sales was just $98.

It also claims that Vivendi reported that the four creators’ share of total worldwide merchandising income between 1984 and 2006 was $81, despite music and merchandise linked to the film racking up “tens of millions of dollars” in revenue.

Guest said: “The deliberate obfuscation by Vivendi and its subsidiaries is an outrage. It is vital that such behaviour is challenged in the strongest way possible.”

Reiner said: “Fair reward for artistic endeavour has long been raised by those on the wrong end of the equation.”

“What makes this case so egregious is the prolonged and deliberate concealment of profit and the purposeful manipulation of revenue allocation between various Vivendi subsidiaries – to the detriment of the creative talent behind the band and film.

“Such anti-competitive practices need to be exposed. I am hoping this lawsuit goes to 11.”

“This is Spinal Tap was the result of four very stubborn guys working very hard to create something new under the sun,” said McKean.

“The movie’s influence on the last three decades of film comedy is something we are very proud of.“But the buck always stopped somewhere short of Rob, Harry, Chris and myself. It’s time for a reckoning. It’s only right.”

Shearer welcomed his co-creators’ decision to join, saying: “Their participation will help demonstrate the opaque and misleading conduct at the heart of this case. We’re even louder now.”

The film, which had a shoestring budget of $2.25 million, was released in 1984 and became a global cult classic.

Vivendi acquired the rights to Spinal Tap in 1989, and Shearer’s legal action claims it began a “concerted and fraudulent campaign to hide, or grossly under-report, the film’s revenues in order to avoid its profit participation obligations”. – (Guardian Service)