Maurice Ballard, 37, insists Lee based his Jesus Shuttlesworth character on him.
In a statement obtained by the New York Daily News, Ballard says, “I want the people of the world knowing that I am Jesus Shuttlesworth.”
The one-time high school basketball star claims his life story inspired Lee and his production company to shoot the gritty movie about an incarcerated man’s efforts to convince his son to attend a specific college in order to shorten his prison sentence.
And he’s threatening legal action of Lee doesn’t acknowledge him as the inspiration behind the movie, which starred Denzel Washington and Boston Celtics star Ray Allen – as Shuttlesworth.
But Lee is fighting back, insisting the screenplay is original, and stating he has no idea who Ballard is.
Lee says, “It’s just another example of what happens in this industry all the time of someone saying, ‘They stole my idea.'”
Ballard claims he handed over audio tapes about his life story to one of Lee’s business partners months before the director started shooting the movie – and he believes they formed the basis for the film’s screenplay.
But Lee disagrees, adding, “He can say what he wants. That’s a lie. I never accepted any audio tapes from anybody. I’m smarter than that.”
According to the Daily News, Ballard is currently working on a film about his life.