Bit-Actor Sues Fox For $250 Million Over Stereotypical Mob Character In The Simpsons, Says It's Based On A Role He Hadn't Performed Yet

from the fuggitebowdit dept

You know Frank Sivero from movies like The Godfather Part 2 and Goodfellas. He's the diminutive side-kick guy. One of several in those movies, actually, and one of many mobster sidekicks throughout the movie industry. What you may not know about Frank Sivero is that he thinks that the character Louie from The Simpsons, Fat Tony's stereotypical mobster sidekick, is based solely off of him and he would please like $250 Million dollars because of it, thanks. His reasons for thinking that Louie is based solely off of him are more convoluted than a 9/11 conspiracy theory.

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."
Well, case closed then. All the writers for The Simpsons were living directly next door to Frank Sivero, therefore obviously any mobster sidekick they might create on their own must be based on the character that he was also creating for a movie that hadn't even come out yet. The suit also makes it quite clear that everything about the Louie character is based on Sivero...except when it's also based on other actors, too.
"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."
So...it's not entirely based on Frank Sivero. The whole voice thing is kind of a big part of the mannerisms thing when it comes to a character. It's almost like Louie is supposed to be an amalgam of stereotypical mobster characters. A parody of them, if you will, one which would be mega-protected by the whole First Amendment thing we have. For Sivero, however, this composite character represents an afront to his likeness under California's publicity rights laws, putting him squarely on level ground with noted super-brain Lindsay Lohan. Further evidence of this theft of likeness, according to Sivero's filing, is a random dinner he once had with James Brooks and some supposed promise that they do some film work together. What any of that has to do with The Simpsons remains unclear.

But, with a rather insane claim that the supposed use of his likeness in The Simpsons somehow resulted in him being type-casted, Sivero wants roughly all the dollars from Fox.
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.
The fact that the word "reasonable" appears in this lawsuit at all is a better joke than any that's appeared on The Simpons in years.

Filed Under: fat tony, frank sivero, goodfellas, louie, publicity rights, the simpsons
Companies: fox


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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:36am

    Doesn't this actor know this is not the way to get big in Hollywood?

    He's got sleep with somebody first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:44am

    Wow. Frivolous Copyright Lawsuits vs. The Simpsons. I'm not sure who to root for here...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      I'm expecting a future episode of the Simpsons where Louie gets whacked in some humiliating way by a crazed lawsuit-wielding actor. The Simpsons writers are not really a touchy-feely lot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:45am

    He's the one the cops found hanging on a meathook in a refrigerated trailer in Goodfellas? It took days to thaw him out for autopsy? Who was gonna take the coffee pot with after he and Pesci shot Legs for not ditching the truck?

    I get him mixed up with the guy who says everything twice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:49am

    Poor guy

    He must be incredibly desperate for money in order to even consider a lawsuit as ridiculous as this. He's clearly just throwing it at the wall and hoping something will stick.

    The poor guy. I genuinely feel sorry for him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 11:59am

    Reasonable...

    Oh, look ... the attorney has been practicing less than two years, and is already running his own law firm. That's reasonable. And surely not a recipe for problematic claims not based in reality... (calbar.ca.gov)

    Guessing the attorney used his own Bar Number as a starting point for the damages, then scaled back to 250 for "reasonableness," then changed it to millions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    stryx, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Fat Tony wouldn't get mad, he'd get stabby.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:14pm

    This guy has apparently never seen a gangster movies...ever...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:27pm

      Re:

      Where else would HE have gotten the mannerisms and idioms of a gangster? Unless he grew up in a gangster family (and actually, even then), he copied/learned those things from somewhere else, as his character was a stereotype by the late 1980s.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:28pm

    What are the odds that he, or at least his lawyer, are hoping for a settlement offer, because that would be cheaper for Fox that winning in court?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Might as well say it, not criticizing just saying you misspelled Million in the title

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 12:36pm

    Why do all those...

    ...characters sound like James Cagney?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:27pm

    Holy cow, this guy needs to fire his lawyer... or maybe the only lawyers that would take his case were ones who didn't bother proofreading their lawsuits. Look at paragraph 21 of the complaint. Somehow I doubt that "Personal Jurisdiction, etc." was supposed to be the entire paragraph.

    Further, the header mentions Does 1-100 but the complaint (in paragraph 5) references Does 1-10.

    Paragraph 13 has this, among other things: "... In October 2012 the app got a Halloween update based on Treehouse of Horror. In November 2012 the app received a Thanksgiving update. In December, the app received a Christmas update in which the landscape was covered in snow. In February 2013, the app received a Valentine's Day update in which players received "hearts" from friends and using [ugh, more bad grammar] them to purchase limited-time Valentine's decorations, including the I Choo Choo Choose You Train. In March 2013, the app got a St. Patrick's update, and all the water in Springfield has turned green."

    Why? Why bother mentioning this? What does this have to do with anything at all about your complaint about the Louie character? You did not even allege that the character appears in the app!

    Or is this some attempt to show that the statute of limitations doesn't apply because they applied some minor changes that have little or nothing to do with the character in question?

    Paragraph 27: "Defendants have used, and continue to use... the name and likeness of plaintiff"

    Oh really? They used his NAME? Funny, I thought the plaintiff's name was Frank, and the character's name was Louie.

    Paragraph 29: "Defendants have never secured the consent of Plaintiff, either in writing or orally, to use plaintiff's name in likeness in the manner described herein..."

    Come on. "Name in likeness"? If you meant "name and likeness", then it runs into the same problem it runs into everywhere else you use it, in that the plaintiff's name is not "Louie". And for crying out loud, if you must capitalize "plaintiff", at least be consistent about it.

    Multiple paragraphs contain this language: "Plaintiff re-alleges and reincorporates each and every allegation contained in all previous paragraphs of all previous sections and subsequent Causes of Action in this Complaint, inclusive, as though fully set forth herein."

    Wait. If 5 separate paragraphs in the complaint reincorporate each other and the rest of the complaint, that means there's some sort of weird infinite loop where those 5 paragraphs each incorporate the entire complaint, but those paragraphs also incorporate each other so now they each contain 5 copies of the complaint, but now they must include each other again so now they each contain 25 copies of the complaint... 125 copies... 625 copies... 3125 copies...

    I mean, that sort of paragraph is always ridiculous, but in most lawsuits it avoids the infinite loop by only including all PREVIOUS paragraphs. This one includes all previous AND subsequent paragraphs. If I were the judge, I'd throw this out and tell the plaintiff to file a non-infinite complaint.

    Paragraph 54: "That this Court award damages for actual loss against Defendants in favor of Plaintiff in the sum of $50,000,000.00 by reason of Defndants' improper appropriation of Plaintiff's confidential idea."

    The confidential idea of the character... which you played in Goodfellas, a movie seen by millions of people, that came out a year before the Simpson's character came out? That's the "confidential" idea you are referring to? How can you say that with a straight face?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:45am

      Re:

      Can we say contingency suit. The lawyer only gets paid if he wins and they collect. This strikes me as a lawyer with too much time on his hands trying to make a name for himself. His name is now Mud.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:30am

      Re:

      OK, this is bugging me now that I noticed. He starts re-numbering his paragraphs from 1 in section 1-C. Why there, of all places? It's a sub-section, and it's only 7 paragraphs in. He doesn't start re-numbering at any other place, not even at the start of full sections. What's the point of randomly starting back at 1 at this spot?

      This is a $250,000,000 lawsuit. You'd think he'd proofread.

      Unless, of course, he views this as some sort of extremely-high-payout but extremely-low-probability lottery ticket. Don't bother putting to much effort in; it'll probably come to nothing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 1:50pm

    I know that it is not right, nor in tune with my beliefs over IP, but I can not help but enjoy Schadenfreude over the nuisance level that this will cause Fox. I could only hope that the suit had more reason to bring real pain to Fox in karma like payback for their "news" and editorials.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:09pm

    I called this guy Severo and told him he is funny.

    He exploded:

    You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?


    I said "sorry, wrong number/actor/character" and hung up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:10pm

    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."

    Wait, wait. Soooo...he's claiming--at the same time, in the same sentence!--that they diluted the character he "created", thereby depriving him of money he would have presumably earned by playing versions of it from then until the end of time, AND that he was type-cast due to them and, so was forced to play versions of that character then then until the end of time. Did I read that right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:29pm

      Re:

      Yes. He swears this under penalty of perjury. And furthermore, that character, which he played in a movie that won six Academy Awards and came out a year before the Simpsons character came out, was confidential!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Definitely different.

    Louie has a unibrow, Sivero doesn't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Beech, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Wouldn't the copyright to Goodfellas, and therefore the character, and therefore any dirivitive works belong to the studio and not some random actor? Or is he using the ol' Innocence of the Muslims gambit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      Wouldn't the copyright to Goodfellas, and therefore the character, and therefore any dirivitive works belong to the studio and not some random actor?

      He's suing over publicity rights, not copyright.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:43pm

    "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."

    When you base a character on your own personality, YOU'RE NOT ACTING!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 3:23pm

    One thing I'm missing here - and I don't see the complaint addressing it - is why he waited twenty-three years after the Simpsons character was created to file his complaint. Sure, they used the character in 2014, but according to the complaint, they used the character 15 other times (out of about 556 episodes) over the course of the years. Why now? And are those 9-figure damages anywhere NEAR appropriate for a character which is, if you use their numbers, apparently used an average of less than one episode per season, and for which most of his uses have now presumably passed the statute of limitations?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 3:32pm

    Plagiarism?

    Hey, I found where the complaint got its information.

    http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Louie_%28mafia%29

    Compare paragraphs 9 and 10 of the complaint. It's almost word for word. (The "To be fair" line in the wiki was added after the complaint was filed.) THEY COPIED AND PASTED THEIR INFORMATION FROM A WIKI.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 3:56pm

      Re: Plagiarism?

      Funnily enough, they also appear to have relied on the wiki's "Appearances" section in their complaint when they state how many episodes he appeared in... and the wiki's list does not appear to be complete. It's missing at least one episode. I won't tell them which.

      Due diligence? Sounds hard, let's just trust the first editable-by-anyone site on the Internet we find, not fact-check it, and then swear under penalty of perjury that it's correct (and not even include the standard "upon information and belief" disclaimer.) How could that go wrong?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 4:43pm

      Re: Plagiarism?

      Paragraph 12 appears to be copied from http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/The_Simpsons:_Hit_%26_Run ... except the complaint then states that Louie appears on Level 28. In a game which has, according to the Wiki, a total of 7 levels.

      Once again: This was presented as fact, under penalty of perjury, without an "upon information or belief" disclaimer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 5:35pm

    This is the kind of dumb shit that antidirt supports? Small wonder nobody respects copyright law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2014 @ 6:13pm

      Re:

      Small wonder nobody respects copyright law.


      Huh? This isn't a copyright claim. It's a publicity rights/ misappropriation of ideas/interference with prospective economic advantage/unjust enrichment claim. (You can tell it's not copyright because it's not filed in a federal court.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan G Difino, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:06am

    Frank Sivero

    You go Frank Sivero! Good Luck! Always a Straight up top player & force in your films. I'd be glad to bear witness to your persona in your lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 2:38pm

    Hey Frankie!

    Fuh-ged-aboud-it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 3:27pm

    Get FOX to settle for "only" $10 million

    Like some other people are saying, this guy is throwing up a lawsuit to get FOX to settle for a lower amount. Sure, he's asking for $250 million, but he'll happily settle for $10 million just to be done with it... which is about 100 times what he'll make as a character actor.

    Didn't the lawyers at least realize the cartoon character started 23 years ago? Why wasn't the lawsuit filed then? Have the lawyers not heard of "statute of limitations"?
    Oh, wait, that's because the character wasn't popular back then. Oh, wait, the character has never been popular.

    But this case has the same issue as all the other frivolous lawsuits: who are the lawyers that take these cases? Courts really need to penalize lawyers when they knowingly take a case like this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 6 Aug 2015 @ 10:50pm

    SLAPPed down

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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