Former model Irina Krupnik filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against NBC Universal Thursday after a decade-old modeling photo of her was used in the movie "Couples Retreat." The swimsuit photo was used by actor Jon Favreau in a solitary sex scene.
It was used as a "prop for an overweight, unhappily married male character to masturbate while his wife is in the washroom," and the "ongoing, unauthorized and defamatory use of her likeness in a derogatory and humiliating context" has caused Krupnik personal and professional distress, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in a New York court.
Krupnik is now a successful makeup artist at the John Barrett Salon in New York City.
Although Krupnik signed a contract granting full rights of the photo to a stock image company, "she did not contemplate, intend, or consent to the use of her photograph or likeness in a quasi-pornographic context," according to the lawsuit.
Tom Mullaney, her lawyer, said the use of the photo was "just undignified.
"Here we have a movie with a multimillion-dollar budget and big name stars," Mullaney said of the 2009 comedy whose cast included Faizon Love, Jason Bateman and Kristin Davis. "They could have asked her if she minded. Or they could have had a model who didn't mind being in that scenario."
Mullaney also took issue with the specifics of the film scene, including the male actor's appearance, age and marital situation.
"It has an unhappy, seedy-looking guy and having him leer at a young, cute woman is even more gross," Mullaney added. "It's the proverbial dirty old man. This is not a love scene with Richard Gere."
In this movie, "the actor John Favreau, playing a character a least twice the age of Ms. Krupnik in the photo, waits until his wife leaves their hotel room before lifting his sleeveless T-shirt over his prominent belly," the lawsuit noted. "He then liberally lubricated himself while leering at the image of the youthful Ms. Krupnik on a beach, a scenario apparently intended to be humorous."
The lawsuit goes on to describe Favreau's character as "a purposefully unattractive male twice her age" and a "much older, desiccated and overweight character creeping around his darkened hotel room to pleasure himself."
The suit stated that Krupnik, who is from the former Soviet Union, "has successfully made her way in a country like many who emigrate here for a better life" and now has "cultivated a refined and discerning clientele."
When clients noticed her image in the film, according to the lawsuit, the former model was humiliated.
Noting that Krupnik had signed a release at the time the photos were taken, an NBC Universal spokeswoman stated only, "The photo at the center of this claim was licensed to Universal and the studio was entirely within its rights to use it in 'Couples Retreat.'"