Frank Sivero Sues The Simpsons: A Perfectly Cromulent Case?
With all of the good will generated by The Simpsons over the past few months, with its syndication on FXX and the launch of The Simpsons World app, we should have known that lawsuits would be coming out of the woodwork. This week, Frank Sivero, an actor who is notable for playing mobsters in the films Goodfellas and The Godfather Part II, has filed a $250 million lawsuit against Fox Television Studios because he believes that the character Louie, a member of the Springfield Mafia, is based on him. Sivero is suing Fox on five counts, including common law infringement of right of publicity, misappropriation of name and/or likeness, misappropriation of ideas, interference with prospective economic advantage, and unjust enrichment. He is demanding $50 million for improper infringement and misappropriation of his name and likeness, $100 million for improper interference with his prospective economic advantage, $50 million in actual loss over the appropriation of his confidential idea, and $50 million for exemplary damages over said confidential idea, in addition to injunctive relief and reasonable attorney fees.Fans of The Simpsons were introduced to Louie on October 10, 1991 in the fourth episode of the show’s third season titled, Bart the Murderer. Now, some twenty-three years and, at least, sixteen appearances later, Sivero has decided that he deserves $250 million of compensation for being the inspiration behind Louie.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in state court in California, Sivero alleges that he was living in the same Sherman Oaks apartment complex as writers from The Simpsons in or around 1989. He also alleges that he and the writers saw each other “almost every day” and that the writers knew that Sivero was developing a character, Frankie Carbone, to play in Goodfellas.
The suit also states that Simpsons’ producer James L. Brooks was “highly aware” of Sivero and the fact that he created the role of Frankie Carbone and that Louie would be based on this character. Sivero says that he was told by Gracie Films, James L. Brooks’ production company, which produces The Simpsons, that “‘he would be part of the future’ in connection to the success of The Simpsons,” and that he “was promised that they would make a film together,” though this never happened. Sivero alleges that he had a conversation with Brooks where Sivero told him “[i]t’s about time we do something together,” to which Brooks allegedly said yes. Sivero believes that Gracie Films never planned on making a film with him, but that they were “simply studying him further for the character Louie.”
The suit contends that “Louie’s appearance and mannerisms are strongly evocative of character actor Frank Sivero,” and that, according to Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Louie, “he modeled his voice after Italian American actor, Joe Pesci, who also had a role in Goodfellas.”
This is not the only suit that Sivero is involved with this year. He is also suing a California restaurant because the restaurant has a sandwich named after his Goodfellas character.