This is so good and so big that you have to wonder if it is a joke – in which case the state courts are going to be plenty peeved off. Here’s the deal: Frank Sivero says that The Simpsons ripped off the Frankie Carbone character he played in 1990’s Goodfellas and he wants to be paid for it. In a lawsuit filed today, the actor says he wants to be paid a lot – $250 million and more for the Springfield Mafia’s Louie.
Claiming that the long-long-running animated series has made $12 billion over the decades from TV, the big screen, video games and other revenue streams, Sivero alleges in his very detailed 5-claim complaint (read it here) that Simpsons producer James L. Brooks was “highly aware of who Sivero was, the fact that he created the role of Frankie Carbone, and that The Simpsons character Louie would be based on this character.”
While likeness lawsuits bounce around the courts all the time, this has to be one of the biggest in terms of the cash the plaintiff is seeking and the time he has waited to go after it. One of Fat Tony’s crew, the Louie character first appeared on The Simpsons in Season 4 back in October 1991. And the truth is, as the pic above shows, the character from the Martin Scorsese helmed pic Goodlfellas and the Simpsons character do look a lot alike. Louie has been in over a dozen more Simpsons episodes including one last season. Fox had no comment today on the mega-suit.
Sivero and his lawyers, on the other hand, had a lot to say in their 12-page complaint. For one, they want $50 million in damages for loss of his likeness, another $50 million in actual loss for “improper appropriation of Plaintiff’s confidential idea”, $50 million more in exemplary damages and $100 million for “improper interference.”Claiming a loss of “prospective economic advantage” and industry “type-casting,” Sivero says a “portion” of the profits from The Simpsons franchise should now end up in his pocket – especially because he was promised a film of his own, he alleges.
“The Simpsons continued use of Sivero’s image and likeness for commercial purposes are all done without Sivero’s consent and without compensating Sivero,” says the complaint for misappropriation of name and/or likeness and unjust enrichment against Fox TV Studios, 21st Century Fox America and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. “Over the years, Sivero was told by Gracie Films that, “he [Sivero] would be part of the future ” in connection to the success of The Simpsons. He was promised that they would make a film together; but it never happened,” the filing adds. “On one occasion, at a party in or around 1995/96, Sivero had another conversation with Mr. Brooks where Sivero stated, ‘It’s about time we do something together.’ Mr. Brooks said yes, but this again never materialized.”
Well now something really has materialized. Can’t wait to see the reaction from the defendants …maybe even Goodfellas helmer Scorsese will have something to say as well. Maybe he’ll claim he and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi actually created the Carbone character, not Sivero.
Sivero is represented in his suit by Alex H. Herrera of the Bev Hills firm Hess, Hess & Herrera, P.C.