'American Hustle' Sparks $1 Million Libel Lawsuit by Former New Yorker Writer

Journalist Paul Brodeur says his reputation was damaged by claims about microwaves that the film falsely attributes to him
Columbia Pictures

It's a very brief exchange in American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence's character Rosalyn tells her husband, Irving, played by Christian Bale, that microwaves take the nutrition out of food. "That's bullshit," Irving replies, and his wife shows him a magazine and says, "It's not bullshit. I read it in an article. Look, by Paul Brodeur."

The real Brodeur is a science journalist who was a staff writer at The New Yorker for nearly 40 years. He's even written books (such as The Zapping of America) about the dangers of microwave radiation. But he's never said that they take the nutrition out of food, he claims in a new lawsuit.

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In January, when David O. Russell's Oscar contender was in theaters, Brodeur told the Huffington Post that the film had incorrectly attributed the faulty science to him. He's now filed suit against the companies that produced and distributed it, Columbia Pictures, Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures.

In the complaint, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Brodeur claims that by attributing to him a "scientifically unsupportable statement," the filmmakers have damaged his reputation. "The scene from the movie American Hustle where the defamatory statement was made is highly offensive to a reasonable person," the complaint states. Brodeur is alleging libel, defamation, slander and false light, and he claims to have suffered $1 million in damages.

American Hustle is an interesting target for a libel lawsuit, because while it was loosely based on true events, the filmmakers purposefully maintained the film's distance from truth. Its opening title card was vague: "Some of this actually happened." Libel claims typically depend on the defendant presenting as true a statement that he or she knows or should know is false.

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The film, which starred Bale, Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams, and was written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It took in more than $150 million at the domestic box office. 

Atlas declined to comment on the lawsuit. Annapurna and Columbia have not responded to requests for comment.

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com
Twitter: @Asiegemundbroka

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