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Spike Lee’s Other Poster Design Bamboozle: Saul Bass


A poster for Spike Lee’s latest movie may be a ripoff. But it’s not the first time he’s faced accusations of unlawful design “appropriation.” Eighteen years ago, Saul Bass himself was pointing the finger.

First, the latest incident. It began when an ad agency hired L.A.-based freelancer Juan Luis Garcia, whose poster design credits include The Great Gatsby, to create one-sheet comps for Lee’s revenge flick Oldboy.

Garcia recently posted his tale on his site in the form of an open letter to Lee. He claims the agency promised him very little compensation for the initial go-around, but more if they picked up any of his concepts. They did choose one but made “an insultingly low offer,” which they refused to negotiate.

When he declined, “They told me I didn’t want to mess with Spike Lee, that I would never work again, that I was a despicable human, that they wish they never met me, and that they were going to sue my ass to oblivion.” With no signed contracts or work-for-hire agreements, he was paid nothing.


Rather than directly responding to Garcia, Lee, who may have plausible deniability on his side, tweeted that he never heard of him. And it’s safe to assume Lee also wishes he never meets him.



But Bass saw theft. He went on to say: “I’m also puzzled. Do these people have such paucity of imagination—and the chutzpah—that they would do this and think it would remain undetected?” He threatened to sue, but died the following year. And today the incident has mostly been forgotten.

And Garcia’s situation is currently unresolved.

As for Oldboy, it opened November 27th. And for what it’s worth, it was a critical and box office bomb.


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