According to Page Six, Empire creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong are facing a $300 million copyright lawsuit, filed by Detroit resident Sophia Eggleston, who claims her personality and life story were stolen to make the popular fictional character Cookie Lyon, played by Taraji P. Henson.
Eggleston, 53, alleges in her suit that she was a former drug kingpin (à la Cookie and her husband, Lucious) who was sent to jail (also à la Cookie) for manslaughter for hiring a hit man to kill someone (the suit specifies that Cookie does this upon her release from jail). According to the suit, Eggleston had met with screenwriter Rita Miller in New Jersey in 2011 to share her memoir, titled The Hidden Hand; supposedly Miller had fallen ill and gone back to Los Angeles, but said she had left the memoir with Daniels. Other similarities are detailed: a soft spot for fur, a gay family member (Cookie’s son is gay, Eggleston’s brother is gay), similar behaviors and backgrounds (perhaps these are more specific in the suit than the less-swaying “gay family member” argument).
Meanwhile, Strong claims Empire was created after he’d heard a story about Sean Combs and was taken by the notion of a “hip hop King Lear.” He’d said:
I don’t remember what the news story was, but hearing the news story, I thought, ‘Hip-hop is so cool! I wanna do something with hip-hop!’ That was literally my mind set.
Eggleston, who now cares for the elderly (and was, as the FBI claims, charged for Medicare fraud last year), said to Page Six:
The whole city’s been telling me Cookie is basically me. Any jury would rule for me — $300 million is a very small price for taking my whole life and stealing it.