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There’s something tricky about taking real-life inspiration for the big screen. What do the people the story is based on think about it? Liza Minnelli has spoken out against the Renée Zellweger-led Judy Garland film. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Green Book was met with controversy when the Shirley family desputed the factuality of the story. Now, Hustlers is facing backlash from the real-life Ramona Jennifer Lopez’s stripper ring-leader character is based upon.
Hustlers’ inspiration Samantha Barbash and her legal team delivered a letter to STX Entertainment demanding compensation for her likeness, personality, story and identity in connection to the promotion of the stripper heist. They are threatening to sue the studio if a deal isn’t reached within 10 days.
Barbash’s lawyer Bruno Gioffre claims Samantha Barbash declined previous offers to be included in the film and Jennifer Lopez’s character in Hustlers is a “flagrant violation of her rights." The script was developed by Lorene Scafaria based on a 2015 New York magazine article in which she divelged her side of her story which resulted in a 2017 guilty plead and five years in probation. Barbash showed her distaste for Hustlers with these words:
They basically stole my story. I wouldn’t sign my rights away. I wasn’t giving away my film and TV rights for peanuts. J-Lo doesn’t work for free, why would I?
Now, it should be noted that her and the other strippers’ names were not used in Hustlers. The movie opens with “Inspired By a True Story” header and doesn’t claim to be 100% accurate. The movie took some creative liberties such as Constance Wu’s grandma being alive throughout the events of the article, when the actual woman she is based on lost her years prior.
Samantha Barbash told TMZ the Hustlers’ producers reached out to her to obtain the rights. She declined because she didn’t agree with the compensation. Barbash said she has Hermes bags that cost more than what they offered her. She continued with:
(Jennifer Lopez) didn’t even reach out to the woman she’s portraying. That’s a little degrading… she basically defamed my character.
Barbash said Jennifer Lopez made zero effort to reach out to her. She also explained that the actress’s fancy pole dancing moves J-Lo trained for months and suffered injuries to master, she’s never done in her life. Barbash found a particular sequence where Lopez’s Ramona is cooking drugs in her kitchen with Constance Wu’s Dorothy to be upsetting, considering she said she’d never do that where her daughter lives.
We will defend our right to tell factually based stories based on the public record and look forward to resolving this matter before a judge.
Past cases of this caliber have ruled in favor of the creatives, based on their First Amendment rights to make a fictional film portraying real events. French actress, Olivia de Havilland lost her suit against FX for her portrayal in television show Feud and so did Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver of The Hurt Locker.
We’ll have to see how this case plays out for Samantha Barbash! In the meantime, Hustlers is in theaters now.