“Florida Joker” Is Demanding $2 Million From Rockstar Games Following GTA 6 Trailer

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Dec 13, 2023

Grand Theft Auto VI” released a recently viral trailer for the highly anticipated video game, and fans were quick to spot the inspiration behind some of the NPCs in Vice City to real-life moments plucked right out of Florida.

“Florida Joker,” a man who sees himself mirrored in a few elements of a new Rockstar Games character, is demanding a cool $2 million from the company. He claims his likeness was illegally used–but is his case as clear-cut as the Florida sunshine? Buckle up, because we’re diving into the details.

Florida Joker Isn’t a Flattered By This Homage

In a recent TikTok video uploaded by Lawrence Sullivan, also known as the Florida Joker, he accused Rockstar Games, the studio behind the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise, of stealing his likeness. The “Grand Theft Auto VI” video game trailer showed an NPC in a courtroom with tattoos on his face and colorful hair.

Lawrence Sullivan recording himself next to a still of "Florida Joker" in GTA 6 trailer

Source: TikTok

When the long-awaited game trailer dropped, Sullivan made a TikTok, saying, “You know they got that character with the face tattoos, you know who they got that inspired by. By me, just look me up, Florida Joker, Miami Joker, you know what I’m talking about. GTA, we gotta talk.”

How Did Lawrence Sullivan Become the Florida Joker?

Sullivan, who tattooed his face to resemble Jared Leto’s version of the Joker in 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” has been trying to monetize himself after his mug shot went viral in 2017.  Sullivan was arrested after waving a weapon in traffic in Florida.

"Florida Joker" in the GTA 6 trailer

Source: Rockstar Games via YouTube

Sullivan in another video says, “That’s me, right there! GTA, listen up! We need to have a conversation, right now! Or, you know what, just cut me a cool million or two. What do you say? The Florida Joker isn’t amused. You stole my face, you stole my life!” He left no room for misunderstanding.

Is the GTA VI Character Based on the Florida Joker?

While the quick glimpse of the character seems to be based on the media coverage of Sullivan’s trial, it is unsure if the character is actually in the game or has a storyline based on Sullivan. Even if it did, the video game company might have the right to create a character with similarities to the Florida Joker since it was made public information in the courts. Plus, parody gives the video company an upper hand.

Lawrence Sullivan mugshot

Source: Gulfport police department

If Sullivan is planning a lawsuit against Rockstar Games to get the “mil or two” he is interested in receiving, he could have a lengthy legal battle that doesn’t benefit him in the end.

“Red Dead Redemption 2" Actor Responds to the Florida Joker

Rockstar Games has parodied real-life people multiple times. The “Red Dead Redemption 2” Arthur Morgan’s actor, Roger Clark, pointed out in a now-deleted video that Rockstar Games won’t talk to him. “[Rockstars Game] had people like you trying to sue them for decades,” Morgan says in the video.

Arthur Morgan from "Red Dead Redemption 2"

Source: Stefans02/Flickr

“They are lawyers, son. They know exactly what they can and cannot get away with,” Morgan says.

Actor Roger Clark Offers Some Advice

However, Morgan does offer some advice to the Florida Joker. “If I were you, I would use the notoriety they just threw your way to your advantage. Capitalize on it somehow,” Morgan says in the video.

Roger Clark at Great Philadelphia Comic-Con 2019.

Source: Cassandra Wynn/Wikimedia Commons

But Morgan couldn’t end the video without a quick jab. “You ain’t getting a job at Home Depot with that face,” Morgan says before ending the video.


This Isn't the "GTA" Franchises First Time Being Sued

Sullivan isn’t the first to try and sue the video game company for using his likeness. In 2014, actor Lindsay Lohan filed a lawsuit against the “Grand Theft Auto V” creators, claiming that the character Lacey Jonas is a reference to her, using her image, voice, and styles from the celebrity clothing line (via Business Insider).

Lindsay Lohan posing with purple jacket

Source: Lindsay Lohan via Instagram

Other “GTA V” artwork contains characters wearing accessories that became Lohan’s trademarks during the 2010s.


Lindsay Lohan Didn't Win Her Case

Unfortunately for Lohan, model Shelby Welinder confirmed that the bikini images are based on her by posting her “GTA V” contract to Twitter. Lohan’s case wasn’t helped by the Digital Media Law Project, which states that the First Amendment protects you if you want to use someone’s name or likeness to create something new.

Shelby Welinder and the character in GTA 5 artwork comparison

Source: marcusa3000/Reddit

Lohan’s case didn’t go anywhere, with the judge saying the in-game “actress slash singer” merely resembled a generic young woman (via BBC).


A Prison Blames "GTA" For His Crimes

However, Rockstar Games has had to deal with some interesting cases over the years, including one from a man who suggested that the “GTA” franchise was at fault for his crime. Federal prisoner Jonathan Lee Riches claimed that “GTA” was responsible for putting him in jail. “Defendants contributed to Plaintiff committing identity theft. Defendant’s games show [depravity] which offends me,” Riches said.

Jonathan Lee Riches posing with a woman for a photo

Source: Jonathan Lee Riches via Facebook

“Defendants put me in prison,” Riches added. “I face imminent danger from violent inmates who played Grand Theft Auto, who will knock me out and take my gold Jesus cross.”


The Real Pinkerton Detective Agency Files a Cease and Desist Letter Against “Red Dead Redemption 2”

While this is not about the “GTA” franchise, it does involve another one of Rockstar Game’s second biggest video games, “Red Dead Redemption 2.” The open-world game features the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which has been a long symbol with any media focused on the Old West.

the mining troubles in Hocking Valley - scene in the town of Buchtel - the striking miners' reception of "Blackleg" workmen when returning from their work escorted by a detachment of Pinkerton's detectives / from a sketch by Joseph Becker ; Hyde.

Source: Joseph Becker/Wikimedia Commons

The game’s primary antagonist includes two agents from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which caught the attention of the real-life agency.


Luckily, Rockstar Games Got Out of This Issue

The real-life agency sent a cease-and-desist letter to the game developers. The game developers wanted the court to rule that the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s portrayal falls under Fair Use, as the game focuses on the historical accuracy of the characters.

Pinkerton detectives in "Red Dead Redemption 2"

Source: Rockstar via YouTube

The case was later dropped by Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two, after the real-life Pinkerton Consulting and Investigation company withdrew their claims.


What Should People Do When They See Themselves in Video Games?

It is no surprise that people often try to go after video games that use their likeness. In some cases, people may welcome being featured in a video game, especially if it’s a popular one. This can be a way to gain publicity and recognition.

Three male characters watching a video on a phone in "GTA 5"

Source: Arjuna Winara/YouTube

However, some people just want easy money, but getting paid is never as easy as it may seem.