If the world ever needed a story that puts the tale of a woman that sued Disney for $250m over allegedly stealing her life story to make Frozen into perspective, then one has been provided this week, with news that someone is attempting to sue Fox animated comedy series The Simpsons for the same amount.
Actor Frank Sivero is making the claim, bizarrely suggesting that his role in 1990 crime movie Goodfellas as “Frankie Carbone” was copied by The Simpsons in the form of Louie, a member of the Springfield Mafia and one of the lead henchman to Fat Tony, with fans of the animated show throughout the years comparing the style and mannerisms of Louie to the Frankie character. Those basic facts, along with the fact that Louie first appeared in the season 3 episode “Bart the Murderer” in 1991, may provide small foundations for his case to go on, but beyond that it seems to be a claim with an extremely low chance of success, considering the show has the easy go-to defense of parody.
But regardless of that kind of observation that someone somewhere has hopefully already made to him, Sivero’s attempts to receive reparations for a side character he portrayed being ‘stolen’ as a minor character will go on, with the lawsuit being filed today (22 October).
The actor claims that he should be entitled to a $250m share of the $12b+ that The Simpsons has made over the years across various platforms, with a 5-claim complaint (available in full here) that suggests The Simpsons producer James L. Brooks at the time 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.”
Fox currently have no comment on the issue, but presumably will have something to say once the laughter dies down, and would presumably not be willing to give up over 2% of the show’s total historical revenue so easily on a very loose claim of plagarisation, an offer they probably can refuse.
Aside from the fact he has waited 23 years to bring this up in court, would there not also be the issue that no matter how much life an actor may have brought to his character on-screen (which Goodfellas is reported to have given its actors great freedom in doing), the job of originally setting the foundations of that character was that of the screen writers? On the off chance Sivero were to win this court case, surely a list of people headed by Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese would come calling for a slice…
62-year-old Sivero might still have a lot to learn in the industry, it would seem, as you don’t see Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd making any claims against Rick and Morty…