Did Spike Lee rip off a designer for ‘Oldboy’ posters?

Juan Luis Garcia

Gotta say, if this is true it’s just one more reason to hate Spike Lee. So Oldboy, the new Spike Lee joint, isn’t a flick I’m all that crazy about seeing. The original Korean film is a bizarre, hallucinatory masterpiece of revenge with some of the most memorable scenes ever put on film. Why exactly we need an American version with Josh Brolin and Samuel L. Jackson is anybody’s guess.

That aside, the movie got made and the marketing for it has been pretty decent, especially the posters, which have had some nice, understated but quirky visual design. Now it’s coming out that that visual design might be stolen.

Los Angeles designer Juan Luis Garcia just posted an open letter to Lee on his website that’s a pretty intense read. Garcia is a very accomplished photographer and key art poster guy who even has an Emmy nomination. So it’s not like he’s some Craigslist nobody.

According to the letter, the ad agency hired to do the posters for Oldboy approached Garcia in January and asked him to put some comps together. The pay was low for the comps, but the promise of additional money if the concepts were picked to be the movie’s key art – along with his admiration for Lee’s work – was enough for Garcia to do the work. He delivered a number of concepts and waited to hear back.

When he did, the news was mixed – Spike loved the ideas, but the amount the agency wanted to pay for them was embarrassingly low. So Garcia did what he had a right to do – he walked away. The work still belonged to him, and he could take it elsewhere. He asked to be paid for his comps, turned down the key art payment and went about his life.

Imagine his surprise when the movie came out and the posters that the agency went with went up on Spike Lee’s official web page. The evidence is pretty damning. So what do you think? Clear-cut theft or just a mistake?