"Out of the Furnace" which sees Christian Bale's Russell Baze facing off a group of inbred criminals in the Northeast angers a Native American tribe in the region. Seventeen members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation file defamation lawsuit against the film's producers for portraying them in a negative way.
Eight of the plaintiffs share the same surname as Harlan De Groat, a ruthless drug lord played by Woody Harrelson in the film. Two of the other plaintiffs have Van Dunk surnames and so does another gang member in the Scott Cooper-directed movie.
"The Defendants, and each of them, knew or should have known that their actions would place Plaintiffs, and/or any person so situated in a false light," the plaintiffs say. "The connection between the ethnic slur of 'Jackson Whites', with the location of the Ramapo Mountains of New Jersey', with a Bergen County Police patrol car, with the surnames 'DeGroat' and 'Van Dunk', is too specific to the Ramapough plaintiffs to be chance, coincidence or happenstance, and implies an element of knowledge on the part of the Defendants, or some of them."
They claim the movie dragged up painful memories of discrimination they suffered in the past. "Among other discrimination, they were forced to attend segregated schools in Mahwah, New Jersey until the 1930s and the Hillburn school was only integrated in the 1940s when Thurgood Marsahll, acting for the NAACP, filed an action challenging that segregation," the lawsuit reads.
Before the lawsuit was filed, the tribe's officials had branded the movie "a hate crime," but Relativity Media insisted the film was "entirely fictional" and never meant to portray any particular group.
In response to the studio's defensive statement, the defendants cite in the lawsuit an interview where Cooper said "the character of Harlan DeGroat is based upon someone 'who has been in my family's life.'" The director/writer also said Harrelson did research "about people in that area of the country" and "watch some documentaries."
No comment has been made by the studio regarding the lawsuit. Released on December 13, "Out of the Furnace" is supported by Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard.