Goodfellas actor says The Simpsons producers ripped off his character, sues for US$250 million

Los Angeles (AFP) - Goodfellas actor Frank Sivero is suing Fox Television for US$250 million (S$318 million) for allegedly ripping off his wise-guy cinematic character and using it on The Simpsons. According to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Sivero also claims producers of hit cartoon series The Simpsons promised to make a film with him but reneged, and were simply using him to study his character.

Sivero played mobster Frankie Carbone in Martin Scorsese's 1990 classic Goodfellas. He claims The Simpsons stole the character and used it for Louie, a member of the Springfield Mafia whose boss was Fat Tony.

Sivero, 62, who was also in The Godfather Part II (1974), said in 1989 that he was living in the same Los Angeles-area apartment complex as The Simpsons writers.

"During this time, (the) writers knew who Sivero was, and they saw each other almost every day. They knew he was developing the character he was to play in the movie Goodfellas," the lawsuit stated.

Goodfellas was released the following year and was a box-office and critical hit, being nominated for six Oscars and winning one, while earning nearly twice its US$25-million budget in the US alone, according to the lawsuit.

"Just one year later, The Simpsons went on to base one of their 'Wise Guy' characters on the character Frankie Carbone, a character played and developed by Sivero," it said.

In a separate count, Sivero claims The Simpsons producer James Brooks led him to believe they would make a film together, "but it never happened". At a party in 1995 or 1996, "Sivero had another conversation with Mr Brooks where Sivero stated 'It's about time we do something together.' Mr Brooks said yes, but this again never materialised." Sivero is demanding US$50 million in damages for loss of his likeness, US$100 million for improper interference, and US$100 million for appropriation of his "confidential" idea.

The lawsuit stated that The Simpsons, including the TV series, movie, video game and associated merchandising, has to date made some $12 billion.

Representatives for 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox Television Studios, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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