A real-life character who worked for Jordan Belfort at the infamous Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm, and who claims he was defamed by his depiction in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” can proceed with his lawsuit against the makers of the film, a federal judge has ruled.
Andrew Greene is seeking damages in excess of $ 50 million for his close likeness to the movie character Nicky (Rugrat) Koskoff, who came across as a “criminal, drug user, degenerate, depraved and devoid of any morals or ethics,” according to court papers.
Greene, 53, was on Stratton Oakmont’s board of directors in the 1990s, when investors were fleeced out of millions of dollars in pump-and-dump stock schemes. Like Rugrat, played by actor P.J. Byrne, he wore a toupee and had attended law school.
Like Rugrat, played by Byrne, Greene wore a toupee during his time on Stratton Oakmont’s board of directors in the 1990s.
In Belfort’s memoir, which the Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio is based on, Greene is identified by name and the nickname “Wigwam,” and there are many riffs about his tacky hairpiece.
The movie character’s toupee is also the subject of ridicule in the film — the nicknames “Wigwam” and “Rugrat” are both references to a toupee.
While Greene, who lives in Huntington Station, L.I., was never implicated in any wrongdoing, the Koskoff character is arrested for money laundering.
Rugrat (center) came across as a “criminal, drug user, degenerate, depraved and devoid of any morals or ethics,” according to court papers.
Paramount Pictures lawyers argued that the Koskoff character was a fictional composite of many different people in Belfort’s debauchery-filled memoir, and couldn’t possibly be mistaken for Greene.
But Long Island Federal Judge Joanna Seybert had a different review of the material, concluding that in a case alleging “libel by fiction,” Greene’s burden is to merely show that people who know him would reasonably associate the Koskoff character with him.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” gang (foreground left to right): Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff, Kenneth Choi as Chester Ming, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, Henry Zebrowski as Alden (Sea Otter) Kupferberg, Bryne as Rugrat and Ethan Suplee is Toby Welch.
The judge dismissed Greene’s invasion-of-privacy claim because his real name and photo do not appear in the film.
After failing to get the suit thrown out, Paramount filed an answer to the suit this month denying the allegations but admitting that “the character Rugrat’s use of a toupee is referred to in the motion picture and that a character in the motion picture describes the character Rugrat as having a “piece of s–t hairpiece.”
“Some or all of the allegedly defamatory statements complained of by plaintiff (Greene) are true or substantially true, and thus cannot give rise to any claim against any defendant,” Paramount argues.
Further, the film is protected by the First Amendment and the makers did not act with any malice as required in a defamation case, Paramount lawyers added.