Lawsuit Over ‘Yesterday’ Trailer Can Go Ahead, Judge Rules
A lawsuit over Ana de Armas’ appearance in the official trailer for the 2019 movie Yesterday can go ahead, a judge ruled.
The promo clip drew attention to the story of failed singer-songwriter Jack Malik, who wakes up to discover that no one remembers the Beatles except him, giving him the chance to pass off the band's work as his own. The trailer features de Armas as a love interest for Malik, played by Himesh Patel. But after polling poorly at previews, the entire subplot was ditched and de Armas – who’s since appeared in No Time to Die and Blonde – isn’t seen in the movie at all.
In early 2022, Paul Michael Rozsa and Conor Woulfe filed a potential class action based on the fact they had paid to see Yesterday on the assumption that de Armas was in the film and that the trailer was “false, misleading and deceptive.” They called for $5 million from Universal in restitution.
In a written judgment evaluating the claim, U.S. District Judge Steven Wilson accepted the studio’s argument that “trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion” but added that “this creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of a trailer. … At its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie. ... Because plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the trailer is false, commercial speech, plaintiffs may proceed with their claims without offending the First Amendment.”
Watch the 'Yesterday' Trailer
The ruling does not mean any class action will automatically succeed, however. Wilson noted that “the Court’s holding is limited to representations as to whether an actress or scene is in the movie, and nothing else.” But Deadline argued that the risk of expensive legal action could “complicate things in the loosey-goosey galaxy of trailers.”
Because trailers are often completed separately from their movies, it’s common for scenes and other elements to appear in early clips that don’t make it into the released movies. “The hyperbole - visually, verbally and otherwise - of trailers may have to tone it down or risk big-bucks liability,” Deadline said.