Leonardo DiCaprio to Testify in Wolf of Wall Street Lawsuit

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Leonardo DiCaprioNew York Eastern District Magistrate Judge Steven Locke has ordered Leonardo DiCaprio to testify in a defamation lawsuit filed against the producers of the 2013 film, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” 

The Defamation Lawsuit

Andrew Greene, the former head of corporate finance at the stock brokerage Stratton Oakmont, is seeking over $50 million in damages from Paramount Pictures and the film’s other producers. Greene claims that he was defamed by the film through his alleged portrayal by actor P.J. Byrne as a “criminal, a drug user and a degenerate.” Part of Greene’s argument is that Belfort’s memoir identifies him by his real name and describes him as wearing a toupee and the film prominently features Koskoff’s toupee. Greene also points to the fact that both he and Koskoff are close friends of Belfort, who went to law school and moved into a leadership position at Stratton Oakmont after Belfort’s resignation.

Paramount has stated that the character at issue, Nicky “Rugrat” Koskof, is a “composite character” inspired by multiple individuals. They state, “[n]o reasonable fact finder could claim that ‘Nicky’ was a recognizable likeness of Andrew Greene.”  Additionally, they have noted that the memoir contained more than one dishonest, toupee-wearing executive. 

Why Depose DiCaprio?

DiCaprio played Jordan Belfort, the stockbroker who founded Stratton Oakmont and whose memoir was a basis for the film. Belfort was eventually arrested and served prison time for securities fraud and money laundering. Greene was a friend of Belfort’s.

In an opposition by defendants, including Viacom Inc’s Paramount Pictures Corp and DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, lawyers have argued that DiCaprio did not write the screenplay, nor has there been a claim that DiCaprio had a role in deciding whether the allegedly defamatory content should be included within the film. Defense lawyers argue that Greene should at least have to explain why he thinks DiCaprio has specific or unique knowledge about issues related to the lawsuit. They note that Greene’s attorneys have not sought to depose actor P.J.Byrne, who played Koskof in the film. 

However, Greene’s lawyers have indicated that both the director and screenwriter have testified that they met regularly with DiCaprio to discuss the script during the development process. The screenwriter, Terence Winter, and the director, Martin Scorsese, have both already been disposed in the case. Greene’s lawyers have offered to meet DiCaprio in Los Angeles to accommodate his schedule and have commented the actor should have the ability to travel easily based upon his frequent travels between California and New York. 

In addition to monetary damages, Greene is also seeking an order compelling the defendants to “recall, assemble and turn over” to him all copies of the movie, prints, negatives, or advertising containing Koskoff.

Greene originally alleged that the film violated his right of privacy and defamed him. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. Defandant’s motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part, dismissing Greene’s privacy claims and leaving only one of Greene’s defamation claims. The case is still pending in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York as Greene v. Paramount Pictures Corp et al, No. 14-01044.

(Photo Credit: “Leonardo DiCaprio” by Danny Harrison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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