An Angelina Jolie lookalike is suing a Denver production company, saying they ripped off her HGTV home renovation TV show pitch.
Melanie Tolbert, who appeared as Jolie’s double in movies such as “Maleficent” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” filed a lawsuit against High Noon Entertainment on June 12, alleging copyright infringement and unjust enrichment.
High Noon Entertainment produces reality TV shows for channels such as HGTV, the Discovery Channel and TLC. The company has offices in both Los Angeles and Denver, according to its website. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Denver.
High Noon Entertainment didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to the lawsuit, in 2014, Tolbert moved from California back to her hometown in Alabama to take care of her mother. The pair often did renovation projects on the side and watched HGTV shows regularly, so they came up with the idea for their own production.
Tolbert pitched a mother-daughter home renovation TV show called “Like Mother, Like Daughter” to HGTV with a teaser video in 2014, the lawsuit said. Shortly after her idea was rejected, High Noon Entertainment began producing a similar renovation show for the home design channel, initially called “Two Chicks and a Hammer” and later changed to “Good Bones,” according to the complaint.
“The defendants had direct and indirect access to the plaintiff’s copyrighted materials, and there is a substantial similarity of protectable material in the plaintiff’s work and defendants’ work,” the lawsuit reads. “Further, the works of plaintiff and defendants are so strikingly similar that defendants’ copying the plaintiff’s copyrighted materials is the only realistic basis for the defendants’ materials.”
Tolbert is being represented by attorneys Ed Howard of Alabama-based Ford, Howard & Cornett and JoAnn Squillace of New York-based Drummond & Squillace.
“There was no mother-daughter-type show that existed when Melanie pitched her teaser,” Howard said. “That idea obviously resonated with the producers because ‘Good Bones’ has been a success.”
“Good Bones” began airing its fifth season in early June. The HGTV show stars mother-and-daughter duo Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak as they transform properties around their hometown of Indianapolis.
According to the lawsuit, High Noon claims the company reached out to the show’s mother-daughter talent in 2013 — a year before Tolbert’s pitch. But on the show’s website, Laine and Starsiak say they were “found” by High Noon Entertainment in 2014.
Tolbert hopes to receive punitive damages equal to the profit that High Noon, HGTV and its parent company Discovery Inc. have made from the past five seasons, according to Squillace.
“The more money they make off of ‘Good Bones,’ the better it is for Ms. Tolbert because she has more damages to go after, which is quite the Catch 22,” Squillace said.
Tolbert also filed a similar lawsuit against Discovery in federal court in Alabama on June 6. A judge has rejected three requests by the channel to have the case thrown out.
“We feel confident that what the federal judge said in refusing to throw the case out is a good basis for the same kind of response in the Colorado case when they try to do the same,” Howard said. “We’ve been very blessed and appreciative that arguments have landed on fertile ground.”