It’s not uncommon for popular TV shows to have to go to court every once in a while. Shows get sued by disgruntled employees, they get sued for copyright infringement, they get sued for on-set injuries, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a lawsuit that is more ludicrous than the one Fox and The Simpsons is currently having to deal with. Frank Sivero is suing the animated series for cloning a character he says he created for Goodfellas back in 1990.
What’s even more ridiculous than the general idea behind the lawsuit is the amount of money Sivero feels he is entitled to. Deadline reports the actor is suing Fox for $250 million because he says the animators on the show created the character of Louie based on Sivero’s portrayal of Frankie Carbone in Goodfellas. The Simpsons character did hit the small screen in 1991, a little while after Goodfellas was released, and The Simpsons have not been shy about incorporating Goodfellas nods into plots related to Fat Tony and his henchman, one of which is the character Sivero is all worked up about.
It gets even weirder. In the lawsuit, Sivero claims he is “the originator of the idea and character of Louie.” (I wonder how Nicholas Pileggi feels about that.) He also states that he lived in the same apartment building as James L. Brooks in 1989, when the character was initially being conceived. It also says the two men were on familiar terms with one another at the time. He also claims Mr. Brooks promised him a project that never came to fruition. This project, which had no specifics whatsoever, was apparently discussed briefly at a party, which Sivero seems to think is as ironclad as a written contract.
If we are being honest, Louie does look like Sivero.
It wouldn’t shock me if the character was based on the actor, but two things are strikingly stupid related to this lawsuit. First, Fat Tony isn’t exactly a series regular on The Simpsons, and his henchman are even less of a presence. The character originally appeared in a 1991 episode and has popped up only on occasion over the years, appearing most recently in an episode last TV season. It's not like Louie is a character that is integral to the series or has informed it in any way. Second, it’s been nearly 25 years since Louie originally appeared on an episode of The Simpsons. He readily admits he’s known about it, too. You would think if he really felt the portrayal was unfair, he would have gotten around to hiring a lawyer during the George H. W. Bush era or the Bill Clinton era or the George W. Bush era or during President Obama’s first term. I guess he had better things to do like shoot a supporting role in The Wedding Singer back in 1997.
The court system is meant to right injustices. It’s meant to give people a voice and settle real disputes. Whether or not this falls under any of those three categories will be for a judge to decide. In the meantime, in the court of popular opinion, we’re not sure the lawsuit holds up. What do you think? Let us know in the comments, below.