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Frank Sivero Sues Simpsons for $250 Million for Ripping Off His “Goodfellas” Character
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simpsons lawsuit

Summary: Goodfellas actor Frank Sivero is suing Fox Television Studios over likeness infringement.

The Simpsons, Fox’s long-lasting cartoon, has over the last 25 years mushroomed its host of guest stars and secondary characters, many of them based on parodies of well-known actors, such as the McBain action film hero, who sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger and heavy belt champ Drederick Tatum, who is probably based on Mike Tyson. Now Frank Sivero, the actor known best for his roles in The Godfather Part II and Goodfellas is suing Fox Television Studios for a whopping $250 million in the claims that “Louie,” one of the mafia characters that first aired in a 1991 episode of the Simpsons, “Bart the Murderer,” and a dozen episodes since, infringes on Sivero’s likeness.

  
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The claim, which has been filed over twenty years after the episode first aired, alleges that Sivero lived in a Sharman Oaks California apartment complex in 1989, next to the writers of the Simpsons, and that “they knew he was developing the character he was to play in the movie Goodfellas,” as the lawsuit reported. “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… Louie’s appearance and mannerisms are strongly evocative of character actor Frank Sivero.”

Therefore, the suit, which has been placed with attorney Alex H. Herrera of Beverly Hills firm Hess, Hess & Herrera, P.C., asks for $50 million in damages for infringing on the likeness, $100 million for “improper interference,” $50 million for stealing his “confidential” idea, and a final $50 million in exemplary damages over the idea, injunctive relief, and attorney fees, as the Hollywood Reporter described.

There have been plenty of likeness suits lofted across the Hollywood industry – Lindsey Lohan filed one against a parody of her in a video game recently – but few have attempted to claim this much in damages.

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Evidently, Sivero figures Fox can afford it, considering the Simpsons have taken in over $12 billion these last few decades from their television show, movie, video games, and other products.

Sivero claims 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 his character.”



Naturally enough, much of the dynamite in the Simpsons counts as parody, and considering that parody is fair use, Sivero’s case will be difficult to win. It is also perplexing that Sivero is filing a likeness suit over a character he created for a movie. Certainly delineating who owns the Frankie Carbone character, and whether parodying that character is lawful, would be a nuanced discussion, assuming the case doesn’t get thrown on its ear from day one.



 

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