A New Type of Speech for Leo: DiCaprio Ordered to Testify in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Defamation Case

On June 16, 2016 a New York federal judge ordered international superstar and recent Oscar winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio to answer questions about the writing of the 2013 hit movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Despite his objections that he neither wrote nor directed the movie and he would not be helpful to the case, the judge ordered for DiCaprio to be deposed at a time convenient to his schedule.

This order stems from a $50 million defamation lawsuit brought by Andrew Greene against the filmmakers of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Paramount Pictures. Greene was the former head of corporate finance at Jordan Belfort’s — the character played by DiCaprio
— Stratton Oakmont Inc., the rise and fall of which is the centerpiece of the film. In his February 2014 lawsuit Greene argues the character Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff  (played by P.J. Byrne) is based off himself and depicts him as engaging in activities he never performed in real life and represents him as a criminal, drug abuser, and misogynist. In the film, “Rugrat” is seen shaving a woman’s head, excessively using cocaine, laundering money, constantly engaging in sexual relations with prostitutes, and continually being mocked and bullied for an obvious fake hairpiece, all of which he claims is false. Greene claims the film has permanently damaged his image as the audience clearly knows he is the basis for the character because Belfort’s memoir, which was the inspiration for the film, mentions him by his real name and describes him as wearing a toupee.

In asking for DiCaprio to be deposed, Greene argues that Leo was a driving force behind getting the film made. First, DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, was a producer of the movie. Second, director Martin Scorsese and writer Terence Winter both mentioned in their respective depositions DiCaprio was present during the writing. Finally, DiCaprio’s intimate inside knowledge of the film’s development would be instrumental to his case. For his part, DiCaprio argued that he was very busy and scheduling a deposition would be nearly impossible while also reminding the court he did not write the script. Additionally, he noted that the “Rugrat” character was, in fact, developed through improvisation by Byrne providing further credence to Paramount’s argument the character was a composite of countless people.

An interesting wrinkle is that Greene has not sought to depose P.J. Byrne about the character and its development even though he was the actor who played the character at issue and his improvisation is the bulk of Paramount’s defense.

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