Martin Scorsese Deposition Released in 'Wolf of Wall Street' Libel Lawsuit

The director talks about where he works and how improvisation occurs in his films.
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Martin Scorsese

Former Stratton Oakmont executive Andrew Greene is attempting to keep his libel lawsuit against producers and distributors of The Wolf of Wall Street in a New York federal court.

In his $50 million lawsuit, Greene claims that the toupee-wearing character of Nicky "Rugrat" Koskoff hurt his reputation through a character portrayed as "a criminal, drug user, degenerate, depraved, and/or devoid of any morality or ethics."

The lawsuit has barely survived, and the defendants argue that jurisdiction is improper.

On Wednesday, Greene's lawyer opposed dismissal on the grounds that Martin Scorsese's production company, Sikelia Productions, shouldn't be deemed as a New York company and therefore diversity of citizenship of the parties applies.

"Sikelia Productions was not registered to conduct business in New York until February 2016; any precedent business operations before that time was, hence, not under the purview of the state of New York," states the opposition brief. "It has, however, been registered to do business in California for more than a decade; it has been incorporated in California since February 28, 2005. ... During this period, it has been filing California corporate taxes."

The impact of a judge's decision is fairly procedural. Even if dismissal is granted, Greene could try bringing a libel case in New York Supreme Court. Further, his lawyer hints at litigating against Scorsese's company in state court while pursuing the others including Paramount Pictures and Red Granite in federal court.

The court papers might be more notable for the appearance of Scorsese's deposition.

It's not clear why Greene filed the entire 41-page document, but apparently, Scorsese's discussion of the California resident who handled clearances on the film became such an opportunity.

Here's the full deposition.

One of the highlights is Scorsese telling the plaintiff's lawyer that he hasn't met Jordan Belfort, the convicted former stockbroker played by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

The famed director also talks about improvisation in his films, which could be a factor down the line if a judge were to address the question of malice in the film's alleged depiction of Greene through the "Rugrat" character.

"I go by the style of the way I worked over the years since a film I made called Mean Streets back in 1973," states Scorsese. "So that it's very hard to me to determine how much improvisation actually — actually reaches the screen, more so in Raging Bull and Goodfellas certainly than in Taxi Driver, for example, yet I would say 20 percent of Taxi Driver is improvised."

As for Wolf of Wall Street, he adds, "This one I couldn't tell you. This has a life of its own that took on and fictionalized everything and became its own — it took on its own nature."

Asked whether there's a particular kind of film that lends itself more to improvisation, Scorsese says, "I think ... a film that is placed in ... a world where it is less formal, where there [are] groups of people work[ing] together; people know each other very well, more, I would think, gregarious, more lively, certainly yes. Yes. There is certainly — I think The Wolf of Wall Street does fit into that category."