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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Tribal Members Say Movie Defamed Them

NEWARK, N.J. (CN) - Members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation were defamed and humiliated by being portrayed as "inbred mountain folk from Jersey" in the new Christian Bale movie "Out of the Furnace," 17 tribal members claim in court.

Lead plaintiff Wilbur C. DeGroat III et al. sued writers Scott Cooper and Brad Inglesby and five production companies - Relativity Media, Appian Way, Energy Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, and Red Granite Pictures - in Federal Court. None of the actors are defendants.

The Ramapough Lunappe Nation is a tribe recognized in New Jersey, and many of its members live in the Ramapo Mountains of New York and New Jersey.

They are "widely regarded as 'inbreds' among their surrounding populations and communities" and often falsely portrayed as dangerous and violent with "outsiders" by the media, according to the lawsuit.

The movie "Out of the Furnace" was released on Dec. 6.

Starring Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Willem DaFoe, Forest Whitaker, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana, the movie centers around Bale's character seeking justice after his younger brother is murdered by Harlan DeGroat, "the chief of a gang of 'inbreds' living in Ramapo Mountains in New Jersey," according to the lawsuit.

The gang of "inbreds" in the movie are known as the "Jackson Whites," a real derogatory term used for the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, and the gang members, including Woody Harrelson's character, use common surnames of the Ramapoughs and plaintiffs - eight of whom are DeGroats.

"The character portrayed by Willem DaFoe tells the protagonist that Harlan DeGroat and his companion, who have just menaced DaFoe, are 'inbred mountain folk from Jersey.' He later tells them 'You don't want to set foot in these mountains' and refers to DeGroat and his gang as inbreds," according to the lawsuit.

The movie's Jackson White gang travel on ATV's, as do the plaintiffs, and are easily recognizable to other surrounding communities, according to the complaint.

The tribal members claim that defendant Cooper said in an interview that he had Woody Harrelson, who plays Harlan DeGroat, do research about "people in that area of the country" and "watch some documentaries."

The plaintiffs claim the movie has shamed and humiliated them and caused their children to be teased and harassed at school.

They seek compensatory and punitive damages for defamation and emotional distress.

They are represented by Lydia Cotz of Ramsey, N.J.

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