“Hustlers,” since opening on September 13 following a smash world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, has earned nearly $160 million worldwide, along with a wave of accolades for the film’s star, Jennifer Lopez. In the film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Lopez plays a version of Samantha Barbash, a single mother from the Bronx whom Scafaria discovered in a 2015 New York Magazine feature about strippers.
Barbash has revealed that as a $40 million lawsuit against the filmmakers and studio ST Entertainment continues to unfold, she was offered only $6,000 for her participation — which she declined. (Vanity Fair has the scoop.) Barbash’s lawyer, Bruno V. Gioffre Jr., has said that STX offered Barbash the chance to join the project, by way of a documentary-style interview featured at the end of the movie.
“We were sent a waiver/release which would have given away all of Samantha’s rights, including her own book deal and story and her compensation in doing so was a mere $6,000,” Gioffre said. “We respectfully declined the offer.” Gioffre also added, “It is our understanding that at least two of the other girls agreed to this and ironically did not appear in the movie…It is our contention that this was a ruse and an attempt by the production company to bait Samantha into giving away her rights which would have also barred her from bringing this lawsuit.”
Regarding the $6,000 offer, Barbash told Vanity Fair, “I have bags that are worth more than what they wanted to pay me…. I’m a businesswoman. J. Lo doesn’t work for free. Why would I?” The lawsuit currently demands “$20 million in punitive damages and $20 million in compensatory damages.” Barbash also wants STX to turn over each and every copy of the movie.
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Barbash was offended by her characterization in the fiction film, particularly in a scenario involving Lopez’s character making MDMA concoctions to drug potential clients. “First of all, there are drug dealers for that,” Barbash said. “Second of all, I would never know how to do anything like that. The concoction is unheard of…and making the drugs with her daughter in the house…I’m actually offended by that. That’s attacking my character. I’m a mother.”
“The movie made over $150 million worldwide. We are just looking for Samantha to be compensated fairly for the use of her likeness and life story which the production companies have refused to do so,” Gioffre said.
IndieWire has reached out to representatives for the film for comment. While “Hustlers” is billed as “based on a true story,” IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt recently did a deep dive into the issues the surround adapting real-life events: “When does Hollywood need a subject’s life rights to make a scripted narrative film? The simple, strictly legal answer: Almost never.”