Jennifer Lopez's production company beats $40 million Hustlers lawsuit
New York court dismisses Samantha Barbash's defamation suit.
According to court documents obtained by EW, a multi-million-dollar lawsuit from Samantha Barbash — a former adult entertainer whose life story inspired Lorene Scafaria's Lopez-starring hit film Hustlers — has been dismissed by a judge in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York.
"The Defendants’ May 29, 2020 motion to dismiss is granted. The Clerk of Court shall enter judgment for the Defendants and close the case," read the documents, which were signed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote.
In January, Barbash sued Hustlers distributor STX, Gloria Sanchez Productions, Lopez's Nuyorican Productions, Pole Sisters LLC, and 10 John and Jane Does for $40 million (split evenly between compensatory and punitive damages) for what she claimed was exploitation of her image and defamation of character. The film followed Lopez as Ramona Vega, a veteran stripper who spearheaded a gang of exotic dancers who drugged their wealthy Wall Street clients and swindled thousands of dollars from their bank accounts when they were incapacitated.
The court found that, although it was inspired by journalist Jessica Pressler's 2015 article The Hustlers at Scores, which detailed Barbash's involvement in a similar, real-life plot, the film did not use Barbash's "name, portrait, picture, or voice” in the movie.
Though Barbash pled guilty to conspiracy, assault, and grand larceny in 2017 for her involvement in the scandal, she claimed the film inaccurately suggested she came up with the recipe for the drug cocktail that was used on the male targets versus simply using it on them. The court further found that Barbash's participation in various media pegged to the film's release — including giving interviews for two feature articles and publishing her own memoir — rendered it "appropriate to treat Barbash as a limited-purpose public figure," and when Barbash failed to plead actual malice on the part of producers as a result, the defamation case was dismissed.
In a September 2019 interview with Vanity Fair, Barbash said she “wasn’t that impressed” with the film, and that she is "nothing like" Lopez's portrayal.
Roselyn Keo — who inspired the film's lead character, Destiny, played by Constance Wu — was also sentenced to five years of probation for her involvement, and ultimately joined the film's cast in presenting the film at its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
"It’s a full movie under the guise of a fun, sexy, dangerous world,” Lopez previously told EW of working on the film. “That’s life, that’s people. There’s nothing worse than a f—ing one-note character who isn’t complicated. We’re all good and bad sometimes. At the end of the day, if you’re not playing a character like that, you’re not telling a real story.”
Hustlers (2019 Movie)