Jennifer Lopez plays Ramona in Hustlers, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award

By Alexia Fernandez
January 07, 2020 05:00 PM
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The inspiration behind Jennifer Lopez’s character Ramona in Hustlers is suing the film’s producers for $40 million.

Samantha Barbash filed a federal lawsuit against Lopez’s production company Nuyorican Productions, STX Entertainment, Gloria Sanchez Productions and Pole Sisters LLC claiming they tried to “exploit” her likeness and character in the hit film, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. She’s being represented by lawyer Bruno V. Gioffre, Jr..

A rep for Lopez declined to comment.

Barbash claims the film’s producers attempted to “obtain a consent and waiver from Ms. Barbash for the production of the film and their ultimate portrayal” of her.

In the lawsuit, Barbash also alleges the movie defames her by portraying Lopez’s character “using and manufacturing illegal substances in her home where she lived with her child.”

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers
| Credit: Barbara Nitke/STXfilms

Barbash is seeking $20 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

The movie is based on a true story detailed in a 2015 New York Magazine article titled “The Hustlers at Scores,” about New York City strippers who drugged their wealthy clients in order to use their credit cards to run up large bills at the strip club.

In September, Barbash told Vanity Fair she “wasn’t that impressed” with Hustlers.

“Everyone has been asking, ‘Did I see the movie?’ So I thought, ‘Why don’t I just see the movie,’ because I knew I was going to have a lot of interviews about it this week,” she told the publication.

RELATED VIDEO: Hustlers‘ Director Lorene Scafaria on J Lo’s ‘Criminal’ Striptease: She Really Had to Put Herself out There

“She had my birthmark that I have,” Barbash continued, referring to Lopez’s character Ramona. “I used to have a piercing on the top of my lip. She had it on the bottom. She had a tattoo on her finger. I had it on my wrist.”

However, Barbash said Ramona’s mannerisms were not similar to her own, explaining, “I am nothing like that in person.”

Jennifer Lopez; Samantha Barbash
| Credit: STX films/Splash News.com

The one part of Hustlers that Barbash did love? Cardi B.

“I love Cardi,” Barbash said. “Her 10 minutes was a great 10 minutes… It’s funny because, when I first heard that the film was coming out, [my business partner] said [she wished] Cardi would have played me. Even though she is not an actress, she was in the strip club world and she gets it. She would have maybe played a better me. Not taking away from Jennifer. But just because Cardi was in the business.”

“There is no hatred,” Barbash added. “I am still a J. Lo fan. I’m a Bronx native, how could I not be?”

Barbash and Roselyn “Rosie” Keo — who inspired Constance Wu’s character Destiny — were charged with two counts of conspiracy, four counts of grand larceny, two counts of assault and three counts of forgery, according to TIME. Both were sentenced to five years probation.

Since then, the women have moved on. Keo has written a book on the experience called The Sophisticated Hustler and joined the cast of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival, where she posed for photographs.

Barbash, like Keo, has also written a book called Underscore, which is set to hit shelves later this month. Barbash also owns a spa.

The film, which also stars Lizzo, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart and Julia Stiles, opened to an estimated $33.2 million in September, exceeding expectations and marking career highs for both Lopez and Wu.

Lopez was nominated for a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for her performance.