Biopic movies are based on the true stories of people, like Johnny Depp in Ed Wood. Did the family of Ed Wood get paid for this movie? (because, technically, the story is that of Edward Wood)

2 Answers 2


The rights issue is still fairly murky. If a program or film is deemed 'newsworthy' (ie documentary) then less rights need to be secured (although privacy copyrights are still in effect and do need to cleared before presentation).

Biopics like Ed Wood, despite being based on a real person, are considered 'fictional entertainment' and thus do not require clearance from the family unless real photos/sounds are used.

In some cases, biopics can be halted - for example, the Amy Winehouse project that has been stalled because her father has refused to release the rights to her music.

  • I find this hard to believe that any "public" figure would need to be paid to do a bio pic on them. The estate of Amy Winehouse is not obligated in any way to license her music, but that does not mean that you can't do a bio pic (obviously won't be as good without that). Jan 25, 2012 at 19:54

It depends on whether it is authorized or not. Often the movie is unauthorized because it's not favorable to the celebrity, and in those cases the person is rarely paid for it. However, there are many advantages to an authorized biopic (having the subject promoting the movie, for one), and they will typically get paid as a consultant.

  • If that is the case, then why won't the subject of movie sue the producers? It is his/her life story, after all Jan 21, 2012 at 2:17
  • A person doesn't have any rights to the facts of their own life, or wikipedia would be in a deep hole right now (as would TMZ). To be clear, though, there are times when you would get in trouble. Using a famous person to exploit their fame (like using a lookalike or soundalike, in radio, in an advertisement), or lying about a person (that's where you run into slander/libel issues). Edit: Also, you can run into trouble for making public what was otherwise private (a tell all book about someone's sex life could do it, though it's typically enforced against exes who publish sexy photos).
    – nickgb
    Jan 21, 2012 at 2:46

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