by David Cornelius
The real Shark Boy in action. (Photos courtesy SharkBoy.net)
To many folks around the country this summer movie season, the name Shark Boy conjures up images of newcomer Taylor Lautner in a CGI Robert Rodriguez wonderland. To some of us, however, we know the truth. That’s not the real Shark Boy. No sir, that name belongs not to a character in a 3-D kiddie movie, but pro wrestler Dean Roll, who for over eight years has been wowing crowds under the pseudonym - you guessed it - Shark Boy.
For those unfamiliar with Roll, here’s a quick rundown. Based out of my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, Shark Boy has worked on all levels of professional wrestling: locally, with the BPW and HWA (among others); nationally with NWA-TNA, with appearances also in WWE and the now long-gone WCW (again, among others); and internationally, including shows throughout Europe with the WWA. Then there’s his work on MTV’s wrestlers-in-training show, “Tough Enough.” Oh, and he’s also part of a shark pop culture exhibit at the Camden aquarium in New Jersey.
Now, here’s where I’ll admit a bit of journalistic bias here. I’ve met Shark Boy in the past, I’ve rooted for him, I’m pals with the announcer of his local televised gigs. So when it was announced a few weeks ago that Shark Boy had filed suit in federal court against Miramax and Columbia, declaring trademark infringement and demanding that the studios, which jointly released Rodriguez’ film, stop using the name, I found myself cheering for the underdog. (It helps that “Shark Boy,” the movie, kinda, you know, blew.)
It turns out that telling someone you’re on their side and supporting their cause makes it a whole lot easier to land an interview. So Sharkie took time out of his busy schedule to briefly chat with me. Silly him.
Q: Explain this whole lawsuit thing for us.
SHARK BOY: Well, simply put, “Shark Boy” is a name I trademarked in 2000. I’ve been using the name since 1997, and it’s basically the only way I make my living. I’ve poured my life into it the last eight years. Miramax has come along and done a movie called “Shark Boy and Lava Girl,” and to me it’s a pretty clear cut case of trademark infringement. They didn’t come to me and try to get my permission or anything like that. You know, it’s just a situation where there’s a little confusion now in the marketplace. Plenty of crossover appeal, in terms of fans that like action movies and fans that like pro wrestling, and a lot of kids that are fans of my character are going to see this movie. They’re infringing on my trademark, and we’re trying to do something about it.
Q: How long ago did you file the lawsuit?
SB: It’s been a couple of weeks.
Q: And have you heard anything back from the studios yet?
SB: We sure haven’t. We’ve heard absolutely nothing from them at this point. But they were really just officially served with the paperwork, I think last week.
Q: The first thing I read about the suit is that you wanted them to stop the movie from being released. Obviously, it’s a little too late for that now. What’s the next stage? What’s the next thing that would need to be done by them?
SB: Well, I’m not really comfortable commenting on this part of the case. That’d be a great question for my lawyer. But obviously there are damages involved.
Q: You mentioned a lot of kid fans. Have they said anything to you yet about the movie?
SB: Yeah. The biggest thing for me is that I’ve gotten emails from a lot of kids that want to know how I’m involved in the movie, I’ve got message board posts from little girls who think I’m Taylor Lautner, the actor who played Shark Boy in the movie. That’s really the biggest thing for me. And my own son was really psyched about going to see the movie because he was sure that I had something to do with it, or that the character in the movie was me as a kid, that was one of the theories that he told me. There’s just plenty of confusion with kids. And even from some older people. I’ve got emails from fans that are older that want to know what my connection was with the movie, I got emails that say “are you going to sue these people?” They see it as an infringement thing.
Q: And have you taken your son to see the movie yet?
SB: You know, my son’s in charge. He just turned five. You know four and five year olds… do you have any little ones?
Q: Yeah, my daughter just turned five, too.
SB: Hey, so you know what I’m about to say: he’s in charge, right? (Laughs) So when he says we’re going to see the Shark Boy movie, we’re going to see the Shark Boy movie. When we go to McDonald’s, if he says he wants a Happy Meal with the Shark Boy toy, we’re going to get a Happy Meal with the Shark Boy toy. We’ve done all of the above. He actually liked the movie.
Q: And what did you think?
SB: I… you know. It’s for him. (Laughs) But it’s a situation where even if the film had been “Casablanca,” I still wouldn’t be thrilled about the situation because of the infringement.
SB: You know, this is really just a case of me trying to protect what I’ve invested my life into.
Q: Well, trademarks aren’t cheap.
SQ: No, they’re absolutely not. In addition to the legal costs of actually getting the trademark, there’s the amount of money I’ve invested in wrestling gear and merchandise and other things that I’ve pulled myself into. That’s my business. That’s my product.
For more on Roll, including scheduled appearances and legal, licensed Sharkie merchandise, visit the official Shark Boy website.
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originally posted: 06/26/05 01:07:30
last updated: 06/27/05 08:59:47