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In what might be the wildest lawsuit of the year, actor Frank Sivero has filed a $250 million lawsuit against Fox Television Studios over one of the “wise guy” characters on The Simpsons.
Sivero is notable for playing mobster roles in The Godfather Part II and Goodfellas, and has lived up to his onscreen persona in various ways, such as reportedly being arrested for gun possession earlier this year. He’s also very protective of his rights, suing a restaurant a few months ago over a sandwich named after his Goodfellas character.
In his latest lawsuit, Sivero alleges that in 1989, he was living in an apartment complex in Sherman Oaks, California. He says that writers of The Simpsons were literally living next door to him in that same complex.
“They knew he was developing the character he was to play in the movie Goodfellas,” states the lawsuit. “In fact, they were aware the entire character of ‘Frankie Carbone’ was created and developed by Sivero, who based this character on his own personality.”
The Simpsons would soon feature, among its many citizens of Springfield, a mafioso named “Louie,” who was second in command to “Fat Tony.”
“Louie’s appearance and mannerisms are strongly evocative of character actor Frank Sivero,” continues the lawsuit, which quickly adds that according to Dan Castellaneta, who provides the voice of Louie (as well as Homer Simpson), “he modeled his voice after Italian American actor, Joe Pesci, who also had a role in Goodfellas.”
According to the complaint, the Louie character debuted during an episode titled “Bart the Murderer” — the fourth of the third season — and has appeared in 15 more episodes, most recently in “What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting,” airing on April 27, 2014.
The resemblance, in Sivero’s mind, is too much. He alleges his likeness is being infringed in violation of California’s publicity rights law.
But it gets even better, because Sivero says that over the years, James Brooks‘ Gracie Films has told him that “he [Sivero] would be part of the future” in connection with the success of The Simpsons, and that they would even make a film together. Specifically, he says that around 1996, he had a conversation with Brooks.
“It’s about time we do something together,” Sivero says he told Brooks.
Brooks allegedly said yes, but nothing materialized. Now, Sivero claims that Gracie Films “never intended to make a film with Sivero, and that they were simply studying him further for the character Louie.”
The entertaining lawsuit has more fireworks. Besides Sivero alleging that his publicity rights were violated and that his idea was misappropriated, he’s also in court over defendants’ alleged interference with prospective economic advantage. Sivero says that by stealing his likeness and idea, the defendants have “diluted the value of the character created by plaintiff, and contributed to the ‘type-casting’ of Plaintiff.”
He’s demanding $50 million in actual damage loss of his likeness, $100 million more over improper interference, $50 million more in actual damage loss over the appropriation of his “confidential” idea, $50 million more in exemplary damages over that same “confidential” idea, plus injunctive relief and reasonable attorney fees for his lawyer Alex Herrera.
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