EXCLUSIVE: More than five months after Frank Sivero launched his mega-complaint against Fox alleging that a character from the Matt Groening co-created series was based on the role he played in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film, the studio has hit back – blunt and hard. “Defendant specifically denies that the character ‘Louie’ in The Simpsons television series was based on Plaintiff or any character that he has ever played,” Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation said this week in a L.A. Superior Court filing. “Defendant further specifically denies that it has any liability to Plaintiff, for the reasons set forth in the Complaint or otherwise, or at all.”
Cut to the chase: Fox says in its March 23 filing that the case filed on October 21 should be dismissed, ended for good and forget about any $250 million because Sivero has no real proof that animated gangster Louie is lifted from the Frankie Carbone he says he created for Goodfellas. And anyway, even if “any of the acts alleged in the Complaint occurred,” Fox says Sivero took way too long to take legal action under the defense of the statute of limitations and laches (read it here).
Now let’s admit it, while Scorsese and Goodfellas screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi might disagree with Sivero’s assertion that he created the movie character, the actor as Carbone and Louie certainly look alike, as the photo at the top of this article displays. That’s something Fox never directly addresses in its 17-page response. One of Fat Tony’s crew on The Simpsons, the Louie character debuted on the Fox series in October 1991. Louie has been in more than a dozen episodes including one last season – which all adds up to why Sivero says he’s due some of those Simpsons millions.
No way, says Fox in its formal answer to the five-claim complaint against Fox Television Studios Inc. and 21st Century Fox America.
In fact, except for admitting that Groening is the co-creator of The Simpsons, that the series starting airing “in or around 1989,” was made into a 2007 feature film, that there were video game adaptations, merchandise and global sales of the show “generating revenue,” Fox says it either lacks “knowledge or information” on Sivero’s claims or flat-out denies them. Well, it does also say that, yes, that there was a character named “Louie” on the show and that sometimes the “television series has featured parodies of real-life people” – all of which its allowed under the free speech flag of the First Amendment and all of which is going to make things all the more difficult for Sivero, unless he can prove that Simpsons EP James L. Brooks really credited part of the show’s success to the actor and was going to do another project with him, as Sivero says in his initial lawsuit. No trial date has been set in the action.
BTW: If you saw our previous story about this lawsuit, you might notice some of the names in this action are different that before. Earlier this month, the plaintiff sought and received dismissal (read it here) of Fox Television Studios Inc. and 21st Century Fox America Inc. from the case as Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation took over as the solo defendant.
Robert Rothstein and Daniel Kohler of L.A.’s Mitchell Silberberg & Kupp LLP are representing Fox in the action. Alex H. Herrera of the Beverly Hills firm Hess, Hess & Herrera, P.C, represents Sivero.