A Harlem nun is suing Disney and Sony Pictures alleging her autobiography was the inspiration for the movie "Sister Act" starring Whoopi Goldberg. Delois Blakely claims the studio made the film about her life as a young, Black, singing nun in Harlem.
Blakely said her work with the "street people and youth of Harlem" was the basis for the hit picture, the sequel and the Broadway musical that followed.
Blakely claims in her lawsuit that her intimate friendship with the notorious Harlem gangster Bumpy Johnson, who hid-out at the convent, formed the storyline used in "Sister Act." Blakeley said her "unconventional manners in the convent and personal philosophy of bring the church to the streets, eventually led to her leaving the convent to serve the people 24-hours a day."
The much-loved Blakely become an "international human rights advocate, known affectionately as 'Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely,'" according to the New York Times.
Blakely contends that in 1987 she published an autobiography, "The Harlem Street Nun." She says she entered into an agreement with a literary agent who delivered a synopsis to industry executives for a movie based on the book. The nun claims that a Tri Star Pictures producer expressed interest in obtaining movie rights in a letter sent to her literary agent Bertha Klausner. She claims in a follow-up call with Tri Star she provided more details on her colorful life and was told by the studio, "thus far, it [her life] had been remarkable, to say the very least." She was told they would be contacting her to "option her story." That option never materialized and her contract with Klausner soon expired.
Blakely says in her lawsuit that in 2002 she saw a DVD from the movie "Sister Act." She thought it resembled her but it wasn't until she began an Internet search did she find any connection between Tri Star and "Sister Act." She found in her search that Tri Star producer Scott Rudin went on to executive produce the film for Disney in 1992, "grossing $230 million at the box office," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
She said her research found dozens of similarities between the Whoopi Goldberg character and her own life, including names from the movie and events that occurred during her time at the convent. That's when she began her search for an attorney.
Twenty years after the release of the picture Blakely is asking the courts to to compensate her for "damages related to breach of contract, misappropriation of likeness, unjust enrichment, and false representation," according to the complaint. She is "demanding an injunction against further violation of her publicity rights and equitable relief."