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Lawsuit against Universal for non-appearance of Ana de Armas in ‘Yesterday’ dismissed as ‘self-inflicted injury’

A California judge has thrown out a case brought by two movie fans who sued for false advertising and unjust enrichment after the actress was cut from the movie despite featuring in the trailer

Ana de Armas
Ana de Armas at the Oscars, on March 12, 2023 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.Ashley Landis (Ashley Landis/Invision/AP)
María Porcel

Ana de Armas is one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the moment. Who wouldn’t want to see the hypnotic star of Blonde, the latest Bond girl, and a recent Oscar nominee on screen? And, above all, who wouldn’t want to see her if that’s what they were promised? How can a price be applied to a disappointment of that nature? That was the question posed by two American movie fans, Peter Michael Rosza and Conor Woulfe, who rented the film Yesterday through the Amazon Prime Video platform for $3.99. They expected to see the Spanish-Cuban actress as she had featured in the trailer. But De Armas was nowhere to be seen. Her scenes had been cut from the movie at the last minute. Rosza and Woulfe duly sued Universal for $5 million in 2022. Now, a year and a half after the lawsuit, a judge has dismissed the petition.

Rosza, 45, a resident of San Diego who rented the film in July 2021, and Woulfe, 39, who lives in Maryland and rented it in October of the same year demanded compensation for damages. They wanted to see De Armas, so much so that Woulfe rented the film a second time through Google Play hoping that she would appear in the director’s cut, but this was not the case either.

In the trailer for Danny Boyle’s film, released in February 2019 and which accumulated a million views on its first day on YouTube, De Armas was featured. The protagonist of the movie, Jack (played by Himesh Patel), is a British musician whose career is flatlining and who suffers a bike accident on the same day there is a global blackout; upon waking up, he realizes that he is the only person who is aware of the Beatles. In the romantic comedy, written by screenwriter Richard Curtis, Lily James played Ellie, his friend, confidant, and manager, who gradually becomes his romantic interest. De Armas played Roxanne, who apparently had a parallel story with Patel, a romance that was apparent in the trailer, where he sang Something to her. However, Curtis explained shortly before the film’s premiere that test audiences did not quite understand or accept the De Armas storyline and so the decision was made to cut her scenes, a frequent occurrence in major film productions. She did though remain, for a few seconds, in the trailer.

Ana de Armas poses during the 70th edition of the San Sebastián Film Festival in September 2022, where she presented her film 'Blonde'.
Ana de Armas poses during the 70th edition of the San Sebastián Film Festival in September 2022, where she presented her film 'Blonde'.Juan Herrero (EFE)

Central District of California Judge Stephen Wilson dismissed the lawsuit, stating that Woulfe had incurred “self-inflicted injury” by renting the movie for a second time and that there was no reason to believe the plaintiffs would assume the “version of Yesterday they accessed on Google Play would be a different version of the movie they accessed on Amazon.”

The lawsuit accused the production and distribution company, Universal, of false advertising under California state law, as well as unjust enrichment and antitrust violations, and claimed that the project was “unable to rely on the fame of the actors” playing the lead roles to maximize ticket sales and rentals, and that therefore “the defense [Universal] used De Armas’ fame, flare and brilliance to promote the film by including scenes of her in the promotional images.”

Last December, the judge appeared to move closer to the plaintiffs’ position when he dismissed a counterclaim by Universal seeking to strike that first complaint. Wilson said then that trailers do indeed involve “some creativity and editorial discretion” and that they are “advertisements designed to sell a film by offering the viewer a preview of the film.” But in definitively dismissing their complaint, the judge noted that the plaintiffs have amended their legal petition as many as three times; in fact, they filed it after first renting the movie and then altered it when they rented it on Google Play.

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