Harry Shearer Files $125 Million Lawsuit Over 'Spinal Tap' Profits

Writer/actor says the big bottom line hasn't been shared with the creators.
Harry Shearer, seen here in a 1992 photo, playing bassist Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap, has filed a $125 million lawsuit against Vivendi over profits from the band's film and music.
Harry Shearer, seen here in a 1992 photo, playing bassist Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap, has filed a $125 million lawsuit against Vivendi over profits from the band's film and music.
Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images

”This Is Spinal Tap” star and co-creator Harry Shearer is singing “Gimme Some Money,” but it’s not part of a new reunion tour. He’s suing the company that owns the film’s rights for $125 million.

Shearer, who plays bassist/zucchini aficionado Derek Smalls in the cult classic rock mockumentary, filed a lawsuit against Vivendi and its StudioCanal subsidiary for fraud, breach of contract and failure to pay a share of the profits from the film and its related properties.

Filing a claim like this one is neither fun nor easy,” Shearer said in a video statement. “Going up against a major multinational is not nearly as enjoyable as playing too loud at Carnegie Hall.”

Vivendi had no comment on the lawsuit.

Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner created the band Spinal Tap in the 1970s; the four also wrote the 1984 movie at the heart of the dispute as well as the band’s songs “Big Bottom” and “Hell Hole.”

Guest, McKean and Reiner were not party to the lawsuit, which stated that the four were supposed to share 40 percent of the profits related to the film and its music, per their deal with Embassy Pictures. Embassy’s films and other assets were bundled and sold over the years, with Vivendi eventually gaining ownership of “This Is Spinal Tap.”

But according to a copy of the lawsuit posted online by Deadline, Vivendi paid the four just $81 in worldwide merchandising income between 1984 and 2006, and $98 in music sales between 1989 and 2006.

“Well, $98 is about enough to buy one miniature Stonehenge,” said Shearer.

He claims the film is “on view almost constantly.” It had two theatrical releases, has been available in just about every video format over the years and gets regular play on cable TV.

“And yet most of that time, according to Vivendi, it hasn’t been profitable,” Shearer said.

Shearer, who is also the voice of multiple characters on “The Simpsons,” launched a website called Fairness Rocks with more details on his lawsuit.

“I am just one person seeking redress for blatant injustice,” he wrote on the site. “But I hope this lawsuit will, in its own way, help set a new precedent for faithful and transparent accounting practices, and fair artistic compensation, industry-wide.”