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Native American tribe sues over Out of the Furnace

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Dec 26, 2013 | 2:09pm EST

Producers behind Woody Harrelson's new drama Out Of The Furnace have been hit with a $50 million (£33.3 million) lawsuit from a group of Native Americans amid allegations their tribe is portrayed in a negative light in the movie. Members of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation have taken offence at a number of unsavoury characters bearing last names common among their tribe, including that of the film's villain, crime ringleader Harlan DeGroat, played by Harrelson. The gang is described in the film as a community of "inbreds" and referred to as the Jackson Whites, a derogatory term historically used in reference to the Ramapough, who are based in the New Jersey and New York area. Seventeen plaintiffs, eight of whom bear the name DeGroat, joined forces to launch legal action in New Jersey on Monday (23Dec13). Two other members of the group have last names of Van Dunk, which was used for another of the bad characters in the movie, which stars Casey Affleck as a fighter who gets caught up in Harrelson's ruthless crime ring. Their court papers state: "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 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." The tribe members have also pinpointed quotes made by writer/director Scott Cooper, in which he admitted Harrelson's character was based upon someone "who has been in my family's life", implying that the story isn't completely fictional. They are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from executives at Relativity Media. The producers have yet to comment on the lawsuit.

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