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Hustlers Is Getting Sued AND a Possible Broadway Musical?

Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Constance Wu, and Lili Reinhart in Hustlers (2019)

Hustlers, the comedic drama starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, was one of the biggest films of 2019, and while the powers that be seem to have forgotten that fact, we the viewing public will never be able to forget Jennifer Lopez stripping to Fiona Apple. Recently, the film has received two big pieces of news: a potential Broadway musical (yay) and production company STX Entertainment being sued by one of the people who inspired the film (boo).

Let’s start with the good.

Variety‘s Marc Malkin spoke with Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria during the Golden Globes and asked about a possible sequel, and she responded “Broadway.” According to Scafaria, she is currently developing a script for the stage that would be a little bit of a mix between a jukebox musical and original songs.

I can’t even explain how much it would excite me to watch a Hustlers filled with music from the 2000s, and of course, “Criminal” by Fiona Apple. Constance Wu’s character bellowing “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne wearing the mink coat she got from Jennifer Lopez’s character? It writes itself. I also think that, if a musical happened and it maintained the same diverse casting as the film, it would be a great opportunity for some up and coming young female talent.

That’s the good part.

On to the bad news, Samantha Barbash, the real stripper who Jennifer Lopez’s character is based on and one of the subjects of The Cut’s “The Hustlers at Scores” piece, is suing Lopez’s production company for 40 million dollars. Barbash had already made a threat back in September 2019, when the film was about to be released, that she would sue the company for it because they hadn’t paid her for her life story.

The lawsuit claim, via The Wrap, states,

Defendants attempted to obtain a consent and waiver from Ms. Barbash for the production of the film and their ultimate portrayal of the plaintiff therein. However, Ms. Barbash refused to give her consent or waive any of her privacy rights. Nonetheless 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 for STX responded, stating, “We will continue to defend our right to tell factually based stories based on the public record.”

Barbash is “seeking $20 million against STX for compensatory damages and another $20 million for exemplary damages.”

As a direct and intended consequence of the defendants’ promotion and marketing of the film, Ms. Barbash’s name became heavily entrenched in the film’s media coverage long before the movie ever premiered. Defendants did not take caution to protect the rights of Ms. Barbash by creating a fictionalized character, or by creating a composite of characters to render J. Lo’s character a new fictitious one. Rather they engaged in a systemic effort to make it well known that J. Lo was playing Ms. Barbash.

It’s not clear how much of a case Barbash will have, since the story is based on true events that are part of the public record and heavily fictionalized. Hustlers is absolutely one of the biggest movies of the year, and they did, eventually, do the work to reach out to sex workers and make sure they were representing these women well. If Barbash does win in her claim, maybe she’ll have some requests for the Broadway musical.

(via The Wrap, image: STX)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.