In the novel The First Thing We Look At [by Gregoire Delacourt], a woman shows up at the door of a mechanic in the northern village of Somme seeking help. At first the mechanic believes she is ‘Scarlett Johansson,’ though sixty pages later it is revealed she is not the actress but simply a doppelganger named Jeanine Foucaprez.
Maybe the publisher forgot to include this legal boilerplate:
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Of course, it really depends on how the author wrote the character.
- A passing reference to a character who physically looks similar to Ms. Johansson wouldn’t invite legal scrutiny, whether coincidental or not.
- A character who is a precise clone in description, mannerism and history that readers can readily identify as Ms. Johansson would invite an accusation of trading off her name.
Ms. Johansson has personality rights on how her public image is use, which is halfway between a private citizen who expects privacy and a politician who gave up privacy. (With the recent spying revelations, no one has any real privacy.) If a character believes that another character was Ms. Johansson for 60 pages in a novel, Ms. Johansson has a winnable case.
From another paragraph in the Hollywood Reporter article, the author admitted that he compared his other characters to Ryan Gosling and Gene Hackman. If you need to invoke the names of famous people to prop up the description of your characters, you’re not a very good writer.