The estate of the drug smuggler-turned-federal informant Adler “Barry” Seal did not agree to sell the movie rights to his life, and his oldest daughter wants a state judge to block Universal Pictures from moving forward with an upcoming film that has actor Tom Cruise set to play the lead role.
Lisa Seal Frigon, who was born of Barry Seal’s first marriage and now administers the estate, claims in a lawsuit that her father’s third wife and three children born of that marriage sold Seal’s life story rights to the movie studio for $350,000 without court approval or the estate’s consent.
None of the proceeds from the agreement went to the estate, according to the suit filed in the 19th Judicial District Court.
Baton Rouge lawyer Roy Maughan Jr., who represents Frigon, alleged Thursday that Deborah “Debbie” Dubois Seal and the three children she had with Seal “acted independently” of the estate in entering into an agreement with Universal and essentially stole money that belongs to the estate.
“The estate is still under administration,” Maughan stressed.
The suit, filed Wednesday and assigned to state District Judge Don Johnson, also contends the movie script contains “many factual inaccuracies and thus falsely portrays” Barry Seal as, among other things, a drunkard, reckless pilot and father of three children, not five.
The suit claims the commercial value of Seal’s persona has been damaged, which diminishes the value of his estate.
Tom Cruise is scheduled to play Seal in the movie “Mena,” which is set for release in theaters in 2017. Mena is the small Arkansas town where Seal conducted operations.
The suit seeks damages from Universal, Debbie Seal and the three children she had with Seal: Aaron, Dean and Christina.
Universal did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. Debbie Seal and her children could not be reached for comment.
Two years before his assassination, Seal was indicted in 1984 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 462 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $168 million. He also was charged with causing four financial institutions not to report currency transactions that totaled more than $50,000.
As part of his plea deal, Seal was fined and ordered to serve time at a Salvation Army halfway house on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.
Seal, 46, was gunned down Feb. 19, 1986, in the parking lot of the halfway house. Drug traffickers tied to the Medellin Cartel in Colombia arranged for the machine-gun killing, prosecutors said.
Seal, who was born in Baton Rouge, was expected to be a key witness in a case against Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, among others. Seal had infiltrated the Medellin cartel and agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities after his own 1983 arrest on drug charges in Florida.
Three Colombian men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Seal’s slaying. One of them, Miguel Velez, died Aug. 25 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Escobar was killed in 1993.
Seal was portrayed by actor Dennis Hopper in the 1991 television movie “Double- crossed.”
Maughan said Seal’s estate received no compensation as a result of the TV movie because it was not authorized by the family.
Seal’s colorful career included service in the U.S. Army Special Forces. He also was the youngest U.S. pilot to fly 707 and 747 jets. Following his firing by Trans World Airlines for his involvement in a scheme to smuggle guns and explosives to Mexico, Seal turned to drug smuggling.
Seal married Barbara Dodson in 1963, and the couple had two children before they divorced in 1971, the suit states. Seal then married Lynn Ross in 1971, but they divorced a year later without having any children. Seal married Debbie Dubois in 1974.