As a huge fan of gangster movies, I was intrigued by a recently filed lawsuit in California. Although I am familiar with actor Frank Sivero’s work in “The Godfather: Part II” and in “Goodfellas” (left side of photo below), I am not familiar with the accused “Louie” character on the Simpsons (right side of photo below).
Mr. Sivero sued Fox Television Studios, Inc. alleging that the Louie character constituted infringement of his right of publicity, misappropriation of his ideas, interference with prospective economic advantage and unjust enrichment. The right of publicity, also called “personality rights,” is a property right to control the commercial use of a person’s name, image, likeness, or persona.
The complaint contends that Mr. Sivero lived next door to the writers of the Simpsons in an apartment complex. They saw each other almost daily. During these encounters, Sivero states that he discussed the character he was creating to play in the “Goodfellas” movie. Sivero based the “Frankie Carbone” character on himself. As gangster movie buffs know, “Goodfellas” was nominated for six Academy awards. Joe Pesci won a best supporting actor award for his portrayal of “Tommy DeVito.” The character “Louie” is known as a “wise guy” and is part of the Springfield Mafia.
The Simpsons writers are known for modeling characters after real life people or real life characters from other shows or movies. For example, the Simpsons’ character “Moe the Bartender’s” voice is based on the real life voice of acting legend Al Pacino’s voice. Likewise, Simpsons’ character “Dr. Julius Hibbert” is based on Bill Cosby’s character “Dr. Cliff Huxtable” on the popular “Cosby Show.” Further, character Mayor Quimby is based on President John F. Kennedy from his days in Camelot. Finally, Ranier Wolfcastle the agitated action hero movie star is based on Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Will this case go to trial or will there be a settlement offer by Fox that Mr. Sivero cannot refuse?