In a seemingly comical complaint, actor Frank Sivero filed a suit against Fox Television Studios for a variety of claims relating to Springfield Mafia’s Louie character on The Simpsons. Sivero and his attorneys seek $250 million for the alleged infringement and misappropriations of the Gooffellas character, Frankie Carbone, portrayed by Sivero.
The complaint mentions that the long-running animated series has made $12 billion over the decades from a host of media outlets, including, but not limited to: television, movies, and video games. Sivero alleges that the 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 this character.” (read the complaint here).
Sivero is seeking $50 million in damages for the loss of his likeness, another $50 million in actual loss for “improper appropriation of Plaintiff’s confidential idea”, $50 million more in exemplary damages and $100 million for “improper interference.” Sivero even goes so far as to claim that he was type-cast due to this depiction, resulting in a significant economic loss. Going so far as to allege that he was promised a film of his own, Sivero believes that he is owed a “portion ” of the Simpsons profits.
The Simpsons never received Sivero’s consent to use his image or likeness for commercial purposes. Apparently, Sivero was promised a place in the future of the franchise by Grace Films. Even Matt Groening allegedly promised a collaboration, while talking with Sivero at a party.
Likeness lawsuits are no surprise in the courtroom; however the plaintiff is seeking an unusually high amount of damages. It is not unbelievable to think that Louie may have been inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Fox has made no comment on this suit. I wonder why Sivero has brought this suit 23 years after the character debuted in October of 1991. Furthermore, would Scorsese, himself, have any stake in these damages? Scorsese and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi may have more of a valid claim to the creation of the Carbone character.