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Friday, July 27, 2012
Parties settle in Aikau movie lawsuit

By Keith Hamm

A large crowd lines up along Kamehameha Highway looking into Waimea Bay to watch the 2009 Eddie Aikau Big-Wave Invitational in Waimea, Hawaii. The rare contest, which attracts big wave surfers from around the world, is held in his memory.

The escalating court fight over the feature-film rights to legendary waterman Eddie Aikau's life story ebbed dramatically last week in Hawaii as all sides tentatively hammered out a settlement that has them joining forces as a moviemaking team.

"There was a difference of opinion between the people who wanted to see a feature film made about the life of Eddie Aikau," producer Paul Taubleib told "But all the parties had a modern version of an Hawaiian ho'oponono [to make right or balance the situation], including the Aikau family . . . and film producers Ryan Harper and [myself]. As a group we have reached an agreement in principle to come together . . . to see that this incredible story can make it to the big screen."

Big-wave surfer and North Shore lifeguard Edward "Eddie" Ryon Makuahanai Aikau vanished at sea in March 1978 during a rescue mission. His life and legacy are the subject Stuart Holmes Coleman's award-winning biography "Eddie Would Go," published in 2002 and soon thereafter optioned by Harper's production company Your Half Pictures.

In April, Aikau's surviving siblings -- Myra, Solomon, and Clyde Aikau -- sued Your Half for essentially failing to deliver that feature film, asking the court to rule that they retain exclusive rights to their brother's life story.

In its countersuit, filed June 15, Your Half outlined ongoing efforts to make the movie and defended its contracted rights in perpetuity to do so. Your Half's filing also brought Taublieb into the proceedings, claiming that he "induced the Aikuas to breach their contract with [Your Half] and sign with him instead."

The Aikau's lawyer, Seth Reiss, flatly rejected that allegation, adding that Taublieb was "the great peacemaker" as the court case advanced.

"We're excited about Paul [Taublieb] and Ryan [Harper] working together on the movie," Reiss said.

Harper's lawyer, Jay Handlin, added, "This [settlement] is about getting a movie made. All Ryan [Harper] has wanted to do is get a great movie made about a very deserving subject. And this resolution increases the chances of that happening."

As the suing ceases and the cooperation commences, Taublieb and Harper jointly hold a multiyear option to produce a feature film.

"We're not pointing fingers at each other anymore," Taublieb said. "We agreed to focus on a positive solution."

In the meantime, Taublieb and a filmmakers Stacy Peralta and Sam George are in the final stages of an Eddie Aikau documentary "Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau" on track for screenings this fall.