Hustlers was one of 2019’s most enjoyable hits, making $157 million at the international box office on a $20 million budget. Not only was it a smart financial choice, it also earned great reviews and delighted audiences. Was there a more amazing moment on film last year than Jennifer Lopez pole dancing to “Criminal” by Fiona Apple? I’d argue no.
Lopez is also getting some major awards love, nominated for a Golden Globe and on her way to a likely Oscar nod.
However, with those accolades is a bump in the road: Samantha Barbash, the real-life inspiration for Lopez’s Ramona, is suing for defamation. The film was based off of a 2015 article in New York Magazine for which Barbash was a source.
in 2016, Barbash pleaded guilty to conspiracy, assault and grand larceny, serving five years probation.
Barbash’s lawyer Bruno V. Gioffre told Rolling Stone:
“My client is offended that the defendants used her likeness to make over $150 million, defamed her character and tried to trick her into selling her rights to the production company for a mere $6000.00.”
According to TMZ, Barbash is suing for $40 million — $20 mil in compensatory damages and $20 mil in punitives. She is not suing Jennifer Lopez directly, but she is suing her production company Nuyorican Productions, as well as STX Films, Gloria Sanchez Productions and Pole Sisters LLC.
Barbash argues that the film shows her “using and manufacturing illegal substances in her home where she lived with her child,” which she claims is offensive and untrue.
According to the lawsuit, Barbash did not give her permission for them to use her life rights and that the filmmakers acted “with blatant disregard for their lack of authority and/or consent, Defendants proceeded to exploit Ms. Barbash’s likeness and character for the film and the promotion thereof.
A spokesman from STX Films released a statement saying “While we have not yet seen the complaint, we will continue to defend our right to tell factually based stories based on the public record.”
Barbash has been pretty outspoken about her frustration with the film, saying back in April, “We’re putting a stop to it because she’s actually misrepresenting me. I was never a stripper. It’s defamation of character.”
We’ll see where this suit ends up. Could the extra attention be just the push that Lopez needs to secure her Oscar nomination?