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The Legal Industry Had Some Oscar Wins, Too

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 01, 2016 2:58 PM

When Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar, it wasn't much of a surprise, but it was a triumph for the actor, who'd been nominated ten times before.

But forget Leo. Forget Brie Larson, forget Spotlight, forget even Chris Rock. Guess who else won at the Oscars? Lawyers. Here's how.

The Lawyer Who Made DiCaprio's Win Possible

DiCaprio would have never have made it up to the Oscar stage if it hadn't been for BigLaw -- and the cruel, nihilistic worldview legal practice can sometimes promote. The Revenant, the film for which Leo finally won, was originally a book by Michael Punke, who wrote and published it while a partner at Mayer Brown.

What kind of legal practice inspired Punke to tell the bear-mauling, revenge-filled tale of Hugh Glass? Wheat law. When at Mayer Brown, Punke worked as a lobbyist for the wheat industry. He left life as a lobbyist shortly after the book was published and now works as a U.S. trade representative to the World Trade Organization.

The Oscar-Inspired Lawsuit Threatening to Shut Down Your Favorite Films

Here's another way lawyers are benefiting from the Oscars: Oscar-inspired litigation. The team behind the motion capture technology Mova won an Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement last year. (That's the technology that's been used in Benjamin Button, Harry Potter, and more.)

Now there's a fierce legal battle over who owns the technology, with one side seeking to stop distribution of a competing special effects firm's films, which include Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy. It's unlikely that distribution will actually be blocked, but in Hollywood, anything is possible.

The Strange Legal Battle Over Citizen Kane's Oscar

Citizen Kane is widely considered one of the masterpieces of modern cinema, but as Above the Law reminds us, it's also the source of some long-running litigation: between Welles' daughter, the Academy, and a pornographer.

Orson Welles won the Academy Award for best screenplay for Citizen Kane in 1942. When Welles and his third wife eventually passed away, their daughter, Beatrice Welles, inherited the Welles estate, but the award was missing. Beatrice asked the Academy to replace it, and they did.

But, the award hadn't been lost. It had been used as a prop in The Other Side of the Wind and tucked away in storage by the film's cinematographer. That cinematographer, Gary Graver, was also a prolific director of adult films.

Graver eventually sold the award and a lawsuit by the Academy brought it back to Beatrice. But just a few years later, Beatrice sought to sell the original Oscar. The Academy again sought to stop her. After years of litigation, the trophy was eventually sold off in 2011, for $861,542, a good amount of which must have gone to Beatrice's legal fees.

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