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David Poland

By David Poland

More on Terminator/Matrix v Sophia Stewart

On October 28, a student newspaper at Salt Lake Community College printed an erroneous story on Sophia Stewart’s RICO lawsuit against The Wachowskis, Jim Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Fox and Warner Bros and others. 

Poorly reported by one Martha Carter, the story says that "Monday, October 4th 2004 ended a six-year dispute" and that Ms. Stewart has " will recover damages" and that "she will soon receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history of Hollywood, as the gross receipts of both films and their sequels total over 2.5 billion dollars."

None of that is true.  What is true is that on September 27, 2004, US District Court Judge Margaret M. Morrow made a preliminary ruling that the RICO element of the suit would not be thrown out on purely legal grounds, though some of the charges were dropped against Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox.  There was no finding of fact emerging from this hearing and not even the glimmer of a trial that would find guilt or innocence.

The story ran on the community college website, was picked up by, which bills itself as "The digital resource for blazin’ urban news."  Eventually their story was passed to and published by Ain’t It Cool News.  By the time I was alerted to the posting and went to AICN, the link was gone.  Presumably, someone explained just how inaccurate the story was and AICN did the responsible thing at that point.

If you want to look at the ruling, you can read it all on MCN… Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

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21 Responses to “More on Terminator/Matrix v Sophia Stewart”

  1. Martin S says:

    It’s seems she’s trying to lay claim to the premise that a conscious machine controls the world in the near future.
    Against Cameron, she doesn’t have much of a case. Harlan Ellison handed Jim and Hurd their collective asses over the first Terminator film back in the 80’s. He claimed infringement over an episode of the Outer Limits he wrote, (“Soldier”), that shares distinct similarities with the Terminator premise. Cameron fought, but the credits had to be changed to include “the works of Harlan Ellison are acknowledged” by-line, even though Ellison could never prove Cameron had seen the episode.
    The notion of “idea osmosis” worked for Ellison because the episode was broadcast in syndication and had a good chance of being viewed by Cameron, a known genre fan, (courts have since taken a different outlook on this concept). This woman, Stewart, doesn’t have such a wide net to cast, and never sent her treatment to Hemdale, or even Orion, the original financial producers of the Terminator.
    Her claim against FOX is pretty bizarre since they had nothing whatsoever to do with the first Terminator film. I guess she’s trying to show RICO, or just collusion, since she sent them her initial treatment and they’ve profited immensly from Lightstorm.
    As for the Was’ Brothers, If she can prove the open submission was direct contact, that will be hard to ignore. After the Matrix premiered, Grant Morrison was the first to start screaming that they swiped his comic series, The Invisibles. And the first film is riddled with so many borrowed ideas, repeatedly cited in reviews, that she could show a pattern. The Was’ will need to layout a totally distinct story genesis that doesn’t run head-on into their previous comic work, (which I’m not sure is possible).

  2. Aaron says:

    A clarification: the latest ruling DOES NOT seem to dismiss certain charges completely; it leaves open the opportunity for the plantiff to fix the deficiencies that were noted and resubmit the complaint. If she doesn’t do so, then yes, those charges are dismissed.
    I agree that the Terminator charge is tenuous, and that the Matrix charge is more reasonable, if it can be proven that she sent her transcript to the Wachowskis, and that they actually worked from it when preparing the movie.

  3. bicycle bob says:

    who cares?

  4. BobIsBoring says:

    Apparently you care enough to comment.
    BB, in future, if you have nothing interesting to say, STFU.

  5. Dave Fresco says:

    I disagree, for a shut-in I think Bob is absolutely fascinating.

  6. Mark says:

    Bobby, don’t let these schleps get you down. Fresca, Davey?? Hmm?

  7. bicycle bob says:

    i may kill myself because danny fresca doesn’t like my whoooo caaaaares.

  8. Dirk says:

    Seeing as how Grant Morrison quite obviously “borrowed” more than a considerable amount of what appeared in THE INVISIBLES from Michael Moorcock’s novel THE FINAL PROGRAMME (and its five sequels) I really do wish that someone would smack the man hard enough to get him to stop whining about what the boys supposedly “stole” from him. Especially since the only people they obviously ripped off, Masamune Shirow and Neal Stephenson, have yet to complain. (no doubt because they’d simultaneously be required to offer their apologies to Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott—who’s never even admitted to having seen the three films that clearly “inspired” ALIEN by the way—and so would be something of a hypocrite if he accepted said apology) And, as long as I’m digressing, shouldn’t Cameron add a acknowledgement to THE TERMINATOR crediting COLLOSSUS: THE FORBIDDEN PROJECT since a case could easily be made that his film is damn near a direct sequel—just as it could be argued that THE MATRIX is a sequel to THE TERMINATOR films.
    My point in illustrating all the above interconnectivity of “inspiration” was not to indict any or all of the above creators (with the exception of the rather disingenuous Mr. Morrison) but rather to point out that Ms. Stewart’s claims of idea theft are just plain ludicrous . . . artists don’t own their idea, they own their execution.

  9. scott says:

    if you are a writer, some thing you wrote and was stolen by someone else, then you know that you will care.

  10. Victor says:

    btw, the proper title above is ‘Colossus:The FORBIN Project’. There is no *Lambada* in cyber-world, or for that matter Cold-War paranoia.

  11. Babe Jones says:

    It is true. Ms. Stewart has received a multi=million dollar settlement.

  12. Greg says:

    From my understanding it was the FBI that uncovered and presented the mountains of evidence to Ms. Stewart. She had no idea the ‘Terminator’ would be involved UNTIL the FBI found credible witnesses who came forward. Same with ‘The Matrix’. If the feds found the evidence no wonder she had to pursue.

  13. Chuck says:

    There is so much misinformation on this case floating around. The opening line of the story states that a 6 year debate is over between Sophia Stewart and the directors of the matrix. That would put the beginning of all this in a 1998, a year before the move came out and a year before she was supposedly aware of the theft. The college newspaper that erroneously ran the story in the first place hasn’t removed the story but did put a clarification at the end. The case is still pending. So far, the only references to an FBI investigation I can find come from the author’s press releases so that doesn’t prove anything to me. I’ve read two pages of “The Third Eye” the 45 page “epic” script treatment that was allegedly plagiarized and saw more similarities between it and the book of Revelations then to The Matrix. The author has also admitted that her script had no reference at all to the virtual reality world of the Matrix (seems to me a major part of the script) and she thought that part was “stupid”

  14. theshiningone says:

    Interesting to hear this is finally coming to light. I have the actual LEGAL DOCUMENTS, including a copy of the [handwritten] letter Ms. Stewart wrote to an executive at WB. Very engaging. I’d have to dig around for it, but if anyone wants to read it, let me know. After reading it, I was in her corner (as I am a writer myself).

  15. Native Son says:

    Big media has once again punked you into believing what ever they report or don’t report. For all of you who doubt who the true Mother of the Matrix is here are a couple of more facts for you to watch on the “Fair and Balanced” FOX network, my bad you won’t hear or see it on the FOX network.
    1. Voting machines giving receipts are not needed, receipts are reserved for ATM machines that handout $20 at a time (15 years and the ATM machine has never jacked me out of my money – even in Mexico when converted to pesos or England when converted to pounds)
    2. There is no war in Iraq, just a casual fight for the liberation of the Iraqi people (People usuaslly try to kill you when your giving them freedom!!)
    3. Bush and Kerry are not 9th cousins (Yeah right!)
    4. Were fighting for oil (Mesopotamia for the last 5,000 years has been at war, what’s one more war….This is about those cars that run on solar power…not oil..I know too deep!)
    5. You can trust one news source for all your needs. (Tell that to the MCI and Enron employees).
    6. You have to diversify your investments (Sure show me a stock that has jumped 200% in price in the last 3 years and I’ll sell you my house that jumped 300% in price for only a 250% mark up. Investments compaines need you more then you need them…to put it in basic term say your a person of the evening and you have all this money you just worked hard for what do you do with it OOOHHHH give it to ya pimp oh I mean your Investment Broker!)
    7. For all you Prolifer Conservatives – the abortion rate goes up when a Republican is in office.(But the end justifies the means!)
    8. For all you I told you so Liberals – there is no easy way out of Iraq!(Bush or Kerry it all equals blood)
    9. No Republican president has ever balanced the budget…..ever, not even honest Abe!(Ronald Reagan…Ketchup is a vegetable yeah right!)
    10. First you must hear all the evidence, then you must process all the evidence, then you must come to a conclusion. Most of the naysayers hadn’t done their research. I heard this story from my wife and searched on the Internet for a good 15 mins and I’m more knowlegdeable about this case then have of the pea brains that decide to put their two cents in. Since most of the posts had no factual or crediablity I decide to add my two cents in that also has nothing to do with the case…well at least my facts can be checked…Google Baby!

  16. bicycle bob says:

    why don’t u stay current and stop living in the past? we all went thru this crap two months ago. like a typical liberal u can’t stay up with the convo’s

  17. N says:

    Whether Stewart in fact ethically or legally deserves compensation is one thing. It’s open to debate, and perhaps “Big Media” has tricked us into making the wrong conclusion on it.
    Whether Stewart has ALREADY WON a judgement of some kind, is another thing, pretty much merely a matter of fact. If she has, someone would be able to produce, like, a WRITTEN RECORD of that judgement. Poland above, on the other hand, produces a written record of a hearing, which occured AFTER the article says Stewart won the judgement, and which DOES NOT settle the case, it’s just a preliminary finding of law, not of fact.
    Unless you’re suggesting that “Big Media” has fooled us so much that the written record of the judgement has somehow become invisible to us (fnord). Maybe we’re living IN the Matrix, but Big Media has convinced us otherwise! Shit!

  18. Mario says:

    I have an idea, why don’t all of us who are curious as to the origins of “The Matrix” just go out and buy a copy of “The Third Eye” and make your own conclusions about the matter. Support who ever you find to be just. Me personaly would welcome the idea of Sophia Stewart being the mind behind the epic, but I am quite content with the idea that the Was’ Bros gave form and function to the epic. I think the Matrix trilogy was a revealtion, and the thing about revealations is that regardless of thier origins the effect is still the same. If Stewart is behind it all then I hope she gets her due. The truth always reveals itself in time.

  19. marmoset man says:

    sounds like a good idea, let’s all go out and buy the nutty lady’s book. one small problem: where the f**k can I get it? not on amazon. not on alibris. not at the new york public effin’ library. does this book even exist? does sophia stewart exist? or is this all some sort of stupid, sick joke?

  20. Christoph says:

    Do not go buy her book just yet. Wait until we know the truth. Maybe Ms. Stewart is just out for easy money. Maybe she is trying to create a lot of buzz so that people will buy her book. I read that she opened a bank account to receive donations from people supporting her cause.
    I am open-minded right now. I try to see things from both perspectives. If she is telling the truth, I hope she gets what she deserves. If the Wachowski brothers did, in fact, steel her vision, then a lot of hate awaits them. In that case, I hope they will be banned from the movie industry in all eternity and that their names will forever be condemned.

  21. NutzoBalzo says:

    I know how it feels, I came up with the idea for The Karate Kid way back in the 70s, but mine was called The Kung Fu Child. I also came up with Star Wars in the 60s but mine was called Shiny Bright Dots in the Sky Battles. Whatta ya gonna do?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon