Leonardo DiCaprio sued for portraying mountain people as ‘inbred’ hillbillies

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio is having an awful week. People are looking him not as a four-time Oscar nominee but a four-time Oscar loser. Which is really no big deal if one is gracious like Amy Adams, who truly is overdue for a win. The problem is that Leo really thought that this would be his year. That wily Texan, Matthew McConaughey, snatched Leo’s dream away by grabbing that statue. Now the internet is abuzz with a “Poor Leo” meme.

I think this happened because Matthew not only returned to serious acting in a very convincing way, but he also killed it in a better role in a more Oscar-worthy movie than Leo’s turn in a tale of excess. Leo’s interviews also seemed a little bit forced. He kept insisting that he’d never done drugs and spoke hilariously about his ideal lady while continuing to mack on supermodels. We’ve heard buzzings from the tabloids that even Marty Scorsese told Leo to tone it down if he wanted an Oscar. Maybe the Academy also appreciates the idea of a family man like Matthew more than a guy who is the subject of “supermodel vagina” jokes at the Globes. I could be wrong. The Academy does love George Clooney.

I’m getting carried away from the subject of this post. Leo has been sued for his role as producer of Out of the Furnace. The gritty crime drama came out last December and boasted an incredible cast and trailer. Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana — what could go wrong? The movie did bomb at the box office, and now Leo’s getting sued over the film. Why? The movie portrays mountain people as hillbillies and “inbreds.” 8 members of the Ramapo mountain people say the movie is about them, and they’ve been defamed and harassed as a result. Ruh-roh:

Leonardo DiCaprio has won several awards for Wolf of Wall Street, but his movie Out of the Furnace just got him sued! DiCaprio was a producer on the 2013 film based on the Ramapo Mountain people of New Jersey. Now, RadarOnline.com has exclusively learned, a group of those individuals is suing the actor and many others involved with the film, claiming that they were unfairly portrayed as drug-using “inbreds” in the movie – and now they’re suffering from “emotional distress!”

According to court documents obtained by Radar, eight members of the Ramapo Mountain community filed a defamation lawsuit in New Jersey on January 2 over the film starring Casey Affleck and Christian Bale.

In particular, they take issue with statements in the film calling the Ramapo Mountain people “inbred mountain folk from Jersey” who “have fights” and are “nasty” and “crazy.”

They insist, “Out of the Furnace characterizes the Ramapo Mountain people in an extremely negative manner,” with Woody Harrelson’s character Harlen DeGroat (a common Ramapo name) “characterized as the most awful human walking.”

“The movie and [a review] in the New York Post,” another defendant in the case, “places Plaintiffs and their family members in a false light,” the court documents claim. “Each have had an extremely negative effect on the Plaintiff’s community. It is extremely embarrassing to the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs and their family members are harassed and discriminated against. The children are teased at school.”

“The conduct of the defendants constitutes defamation …” the papers claim, as well as false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. “The Plaintiffs are not the worst people, do not live in trailer homes, are not involved in an underground bare-knuckle fight ring, and do not live in a self-contained world of drugs and violence.”

As such, they claim to “continue to suffer emotional and psychological damages,” and want a jury to award them restitutions “in an amount to be determined by a jury.”

[From Radar Online]

I don’t know how much of a case the Plaintiffs really have. Lots of film and television projects portray mountain people in a negative light. Most recently, Justified has been guilty of creating characters that are anything but flattering to mountain people. I think the problem here is that Woody Harrelson’s character has the same last name as many people in the Ramapo community. That’s why these people say they’ve been harassed because of the movie. The only problem is … no one watched the movie.

Who knows how this will play out. Should Leo and his team have been more considerate of mountain people? Many parts of the US deal with the “hillbilly” label on a regular basis. Should we be more sensitive to that label? I think describing a group of people as “inbred” goes wayyy too far.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Photos courtesy of WENN

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103 Responses to “Leonardo DiCaprio sued for portraying mountain people as ‘inbred’ hillbillies”

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  1. TheCountess says:

    Seems silly to sue and draw more attention to a film that next to no one saw, or cared about, prior to this.

  2. Maya says:

    I am from UK so I dont really understand what inbred hillbillies means – can anyone explain why that will be insulting?

    • blue marie says:

      Because it’s like saying your family tree goes no further than your front yard and you’re about as smart as a root.

    • seVen says:

      Inbred hillbillies (at least to me) seems to insinuate youve had sexual relations or your parents have had sexual relations with their brothers / sisters / aunts / uncles. Hillbillies is just another word for “Redneck” I think… Moonshine drinkin, Duct tape lovin, nascar watchin folk. (The last bit was a funny, no offense meant)

    • lunchcoma says:

      “Hillbilly” is a term for poor, badly educated, rural people – usually but not always white. Jokes about marrying cousins are typical.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      The word “hillbilly” is in itself derogatory. It implies that the person is from the mountains and is poor, uneducated, unsophisticated, has no manners and isn’t very smart. Did you ever see The Beverly Hillbillies? There’s a lot of stereotyping of mountain people, and one of the most unkind is the idea that they marry their cousins or even siblings. That’s where the inbred part comes in.
      Communities in Appalachia and other mountain regions are among the poorest in our country. Most of them are hard working and fiercely independent and some distrust government and won’t accept welfare. It always hurts me to hear people make fun of those who have it so hard and live in hostile environments and don’t have much hope of climbing out of their circumstances. I hate expressions like “trailer trash” and “white trash.” I hate that children have to feel ashamed of something they have absolutely no control over.

      • Tulip Garden says:

        Wonderful post and I agree with every word written. I do think, though, that “hillbillies” often take pride in the characterization that they are fiercely independent. Also, however others might perceive and use the word, many of these people consider it a accurate description inasmuch as the independent part is concerned. While others add the derogatory additions of inbreeding etc., I can see where their independence in the face of grinding poverty and ridicule is a point of pride for them.

      • Decloo says:

        And then there is the family portrayed in the documentary “The Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” who have pretty much no redeeming qualities and exemplify the negative stereotype.

      • MrsB says:

        Totally agree. My dad’s side of the family comes from the coal mines of West Virginia. His parents moved the family to Florida when he was a teenager, but we still have some family that live up there and we go and visit. It’s not an easy life at all for most. But they are some of the most hard working people I know.

      • Erinn says:

        I agree with this in that there is generally a terrible stereotype associated with it. Though we actually do/did have the stereotypical hillbilly incestuous, abusive kind of people in Nova Scotia. The Goler Family. It got a huge amount of news coverage when the whole thing blew up and the cops got involved.


      • My2Pence says:

        Only vaguely related. Has anyone else seen the film Songcatcher? I thought it was a beautiful portrayal of some positive culture of Appalachia. Features a young Emmy Rossum and a gorgeous score as well.

      • mandygirl says:

        Yes, thank you! I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC & we are hardworking, good people. Not all of us are dumb rednecks. I’ve lived all over the U.S. from Indianapolis to Seattle and by far, I’ve encountered the nicest, most kindhearted people here in North Carolina. I love it here and love the wonderful people who live in these hills even more.

      • Isabelle says:

        As an Appalachian, nicely said. I honestly couldn’t care less to be called Hillbilly. I was once was ashamed of the stigma of being Appalachian. Since I’ve traveled and have lived throughout the world, realize stupid people exist everywhere. I now love my Appalachian history because it’s a unique culture. The people are actually very humorous, hard working, smarter than most believe, and as you stated…. VERY independent. As my Dad once said, Appalachians make great soldiers but horrible office workers. There is a very evil part of me and most Appalachians, we like to ham up the stereotype of Appalachia especially when telling stories about it. The fact the region is somewhat feared…amuses me a lot :) Some of us find humor in the assumptions.
        The history is very interesting actually….there was a lot of racial diversity in Appalachia. It’s history is different then the South but unfortunately many people lump it with the South and it’s racial history.

      • Bucky says:

        I think it’s an interesting term. My family would certainly have been considered hillbillies- two generations ago, they were in Appalachia, without education or running water. My great grandparents sent their kids to live with other people because they couldn’t feed them.

        My grandma made her way out, through hard work and also through plain old good fortune. I also think the characterization of hillbillies as white is interesting. Culturally, sure, but hillbillies and native people married pretty frequently.

    • itsetsyou says:

      @Narak says:
      March 4, 2014 at 11:17 am
      Sort of like the royal family – but it’s ok to marry your cousin if you are aristocracy.”

      OMG, this is too funny!! Out here they sue if someone calls someone “inbred hillbillies” but in Europe, they are just called “aristocracy.” :) )))

    • Tessy says:

      Sort of like the royal family – but it’s ok to marry your cousin if you are aristocracy.


      That is hilarious!

  3. lunchcoma says:

    The fact that no one watched the movie isn’t really relevant – it’s out there and could do damage to someone’s reputation. I think the real issue is whether anyone with that last name is identifiable as a character in the movie. My guess would be no, though this will probably settle so it can go away.

    As for Leo, I sympathize with him for having yet another loss after years of quality work, but I also think he was kidding himself if he thought that this was his year. Of all his roles, this is the kind that the Academy is least inclined to reward. Oscar voters like heroes and physical transformations and positive messages.

  4. eliza says:

    I like DiCaprio and do not get the disgust people have for him. He’s a solid actor with a good resume and likes models. Not sure what the big deal is. He seems like a pleasant guy who does good with his charities and organizations. I find the stories about him pining away for an Oscar ridiculous. I think he thinks about it far less than people think.

  5. paola says:

    I really wanted Leo to win this year.. but Matthew was the most deserving. In my dreams Amy Adams and Leo win together for acting in the same mind blowing film.
    Maybe in 50 years some actor will portray Leo in a movie and he’ll win the Oscar.
    That would be so ironic. :D

    • manta says:

      That would be nice. I remember Catch me if you can, and I actually thought they were good together. On the bonuses of the DVD, Spielberg explains how everyone was cast, and he says that for Adams’ part, he showed tapes of various actresses to DiCaprio and that he specifically picked her.
      And in a few behind the scenes footages, they seemed to get along very well.

    • Tulip Garden says:

      I know Leo owns the rights to “Devil in the White City” and if he ever gets around to making it and plays the part of the serial killer, I believe it will be an Oscar winning role for him. Also, I really wish he would go on and make it because I really want to see it. For the other main character, I would like to see Christian Bale. If you are not familiar with the novel, it is based on true events and real people.

  6. blue marie says:

    You know if anyone were to be offended by being portrayed as “inbred hillbillies” it would be the state of WVA, thanks to Wrong Turn. Yeesh..

    • Tapioca says:

      Or the Cyrus family!

      There’s actually an great homage to Wrong Turn called Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, all about two sweet and harmless backwoods guys who are left to watch in horror as a group of smug college kids keep having gruesome yet hilarious accidents trying to escape a danger that does not exist after a misunderstanding at a petrol station.

    • paola says:

      Tha film, Wrong Turn, gave me nightmares for days.
      *shivers run down my spine*

    • WendyNerd says:

      I live in West Virginia, and let me tell you, they HATE Wrong Turn here. There are so many people who freaking love to turn up their noses at West Virginians. My Academic Advisor, who is head of the English Department here, who has a Doctorate, is a published writer and has been featured on CNN and on the Huffington Post, has gotten people who say things to him like, “Wow, I’m amazed you can read!” when they hear he is from West Virginia. Yeah, apparently the state he’s from makes him the ignorant one in that situation. People fucking love the West Virginia ignorant inbred hillbilly stereotype. And for some reason, people always think that’s funny and totally okay and not bigoted or ignorant at all. West Virginia definitely has its problems, but the stereotyping of mountain and southern people in general is revolting.

      Meanwhile, the BRF is filled with so much inbreeding that they launched one of the biggest epidemics of Hemophilia of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Queen and Prince Charles are both second and third cousins, and yet everyone thinks they’re classy as all get out. It just shows you how much affect money can have. It’s okay to be inbred if you’re rich. But inbred and poor is just unacceptable. In fact, you don’t even have to be inbred. Just live in the South or a Mountain area and everyone will assume you are anyways.

  7. AlmondJoy says:

    Bedhead whyyyy are you so funny?! I DIED at reading “That wily Texan, Matthew McConaughey.” Haven’t heard the word wily in forever and I’m looking for reasons to use it in conversation today lol

  8. Luca26 says:

    I don’t think they have a case.

    As for Clooney vs Dicaprio eventhough Dicaprio is more talented he comes off as being a very shallow person whereas Clooney has gravitas. Clooney wasn’t famous until his 30s so he comes off as having earned it and for whatever reason when he speaks about world affairs and his charities he is more believable maybe because his dad was a journalist?
    Leo seems to be trying too hard and still fighting against ‘Jack’ but he is so going to win an Oscar one day.

    • Candy Love says:

      Not true Clooney has been famous way before that . The Facts of Life , Murder, She Wrote, The Golden Girls, Roseanne are just a hand full of stuff he was in. Back then he was a well known TV star.

      • lunchcoma says:

        I don’t really agree, Candy Love. Clooney worked regularly and was a recognizable face on TV in the 80s and early 90s, but he wasn’t really famous until his ER role.

        (That being said, I think both Clooney and DiCaprio have more than earned their status as Hollywood A-Listers.)

      • paola says:

        I don’t agree.. Leo earned his success since the beginning. In ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape’ he was only 19 and he was one hell of an actor already. That’s when he truly deserved an Oscar. That performance was just the best and he was robbed.

    • prayforthewild says:

      I agree that Leo will have his Oscar one day. Personally I think that what Leo has always suffered for has been his age when he became famous. I could be wrong but I just get the feeling that Academy voters have had an, “Oh, he’s young he’ll have his chance…” attitude when it comes to him. And, that’s too bad for him because two of his best performances ever where when he was very young, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and my personal favorite The Basketball Diaries.

    • Evi says:

      It’s not that DiCaprio comes across as shallow. He is shallow. The only people he can have a relationship with are at least a decade his junior and are chosen for their status as models.
      Has he dated anyone outside of the modelling industry? No.
      What does that say? It says that he is shallow, concerned more about his appearance. And his interviews indicate the level of his maturity. It’s no small wonder Scorsese told him to tone it down. It’s like he is caught in some type of time warp and hasn’t grown up.
      That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve an Oscar. He is a good actor, but some of his roles are questionable. The Wolf of Wall Street is one such film that will not garner any awards for acting. It’s a superficial film, based on superficial people and excess. Not a great combination and, besides, it has already been done before: Wall Street I and the sequel [which sucked].
      I don’t think America is in the mood to watch a film that essentially depicts people not giving a shit about wasting money.
      Maybe this film would have been ideal in another time, but Wolf was a dud for DiCaprio’s chances at an award. Which makes me also emphasise his shallowness.
      He doesn’t necessarily pick any roles that he can sink his teeth into and it seems he chooses roles on the basis of how much he’ll be paid.
      If he wants an Oscar, he’ll probably have to take a pay cut and do something that actually has a substantial story.

  9. psst! says:

    I reall y don’t think he’s this amazing actor..whatever.

  10. jess says:

    The oscars are a joke. Its all about who you know, not how good you acted. If you are in a movie with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Or have harvey weinstein supporting you, you will get a nomination Or win. Leo is Long overdue for an oscar.

    • lisa2 says:

      Brad just got one for Producing.. not for acting (YET: I hope it will come)

      I don’t think it is about who you are in a film with. IT is subjective. Always has been. There are way too many talented Iconic actors that never got one. It is timing too; I’m not a fan or hater of Leo. I’m sure his day will come. He has been nominated as many times as Brad and neither has one in acting. BUT to me the are both great actors that are still relevant. Look at some of the past winners. They are not doing the anything of note. Not mixing it up.

      Leo has had some great performances.. it’s just that the times he was nominated the performance of the other actor won out. And I think he really wants an Oscar. nothing wrong with wanting recognition for your work.

      Brad, George and Angie have nothing to do with people winning or not. Leo will get his when the time is right.

    • SonjaMarmeladova says:

      He shouldn’t get an award because he’s long ovrdue. I hate that they give Oscars for a career instead of the performance in that particular year. Besides, apart from Gilbert Grape, he never blew me away.
      And Brad Pitt is even worse, it’s a wonder he’s been nominated.

      • lunchcoma says:

        Brad Pitt’s nomination for 12 Monkeys was very much deserved. (I’d agree that Benjamin Button was ridiculously overrated in all respects, and I’ve never gotten around to seeing Moneyball.)

      • SonjaMarmeladova says:

        Yes, you are cortect, I forgot 12 monkeys, that was well deserved.

      • starrywonder says:

        Yep agreed. I never was blown away by Leo in anything. I thought MM kicked butt in this. It probably helped he is killing it on True Detective these days too.

        I saw Leo in J. Edgar (and that freaking blew). Not to mention I thought he was the weakest link in Gangs of NY. I thought he did well in The Departed and Resurrection Blvd though.

      • Tulip Garden says:

        First, I agree that MM is kicking butt in True Detective. Adore this show and both he and Woody in it.
        Second, I like Leo’s work a lot, generally speaking but I was very disappointed in J. Edgar. I was also disappointed in Changeling. Both are Eastwood directed and I am wondering if the problems that I have with both films are more director than actor centered. IDK, but I do agree that J.Edgar was a huge disappointment especially considering how fascinating, influential, and controversial the man actually was.

    • Jen says:

      I know I will get flamed, but here goes. Peter O’Toole (and quite a few other greats) went to his grave without an Oscar for acting, and if someone should have multiple Oscars, he should. So all of this Leo is overdue rubs me the wrong way. And he pouted the entire show.

      • lisa2 says:

        I never said that Leo is overdue. I said that I think he will get an Oscar one day. not because it is hid due, but I think he still has some good work to come, And he wants it. He selects films that are Oscar bait roles. So the odds are that he will one day. He is 39 years old. Many years and movies in the future.

        The Oscars get it wrong so often it is not even funny. So we all can name people that won and you go WTH..

        but no I for one never said Winning an Oscar was Leo’s due.

        Brad has done amazing work. I don’t really care that people refuse to see it.

  11. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    Does anyone know if ‘Out of the Furnace’ was any good?? I’d been wanting to see it–I didn’t know that it was out in theaters.

  12. Kiddo says:

    On the one hand, the film isn’t intended to be revealing ‘truth’. Was it categorized as fiction, or did they say it was based on a true story? On the other hand, if the film was specific about real people, named their group, location and even included real last names, I’m not sure they don’t have some kind of case. Especially if they are a small group.

    I never heard of the film. They must have known that it stunk because I don’t recall any promotion for it.

    Wasn’t Leo just sued by a lawyer portrayed in WOWS too? BTW, I never realized this until the other day, but apparently WOWS was really his baby. He was the one who pushed for the rights of the book and to get the film produced. So it was a double kick in the groin for him that it didn’t win, not just for his acting, but for his passion in the story itself. Why he picked that particular subject does say something about him, but I’m not sure what.

  13. Ginger says:

    I’ve used the terms hick, redneck and white trash in joking reference to myself and my kin over the years but only with close friends that get my particular brand of humor. I’ve found that other folks I don’t know well are indeed sensitive to those terms. I agree that hillbilly and inbred may be even more harsh. But in this politically correct society I believe you need to err on the side of caution. I tend to be loud and opinionated and offend people at times without meaning to. It doesn’t take much to just apologize. I’m sure an apology from Leo would go a long way. As for the comparison with Clooney… I’m sure he is more endearing and charming to the Academy than Leo. Maybe Leo just needs to lighten up a bit? He’s a good actor and should get an Oscar at some point, not this year however.

  14. amanda says:

    this films characters and setting were terrifying in the same way that Winter’s Bone was terrifying. the people who live there behave like they have their own law, its rough and mysterious out there, they believe in family, independence and doling your own justice (and some illegal money-making practices). don’t go if you weren’t born in it is what I got out of it.

    the film was pretty good I thought. I even remember Bale saying in an interview that somebody from that area did him a solid by letting Bale record his accent and hang out with him to get a sense of the people, accent and culture.

    I don’t think this will go anywhere big…sure not everybody is the way the characters in the film are who live in this area of NJ, but not all New Yorkers are stereotypical, same with New Englanders, LA residents, deep southerners, anywhere you go…and nobody sues for that…

    • Kiddo says:

      But using the real last names of people in this group (which sound unusual and unique to them), and identifying their exact location, may make a difference. It’s like telling a story about a NYC apartment called the Tower and naming the characters ‘Trump” in the story, but maybe only changing the first names. It moves away from a mere parody of a random rich guy and his family who are similar, but can’t be id-ed. I’m not a lawyer, though, so it would be good to hear from one.

    • Isabelle says:

      At one time they did have their own law and made their own laws. While things have changed a lot, the spirit is still there. Most Appalachians are highly independent….My older family members and a few of the younger ones, have never voted, because they refuse to elect anyone as their leader. Old school Appalachian, but they don’t trust most people that want power.

  15. Sayrah says:

    I don’t know that they will win this case but it does make me happy that this may start a discourse on mockery of “hillbillies” and frankly southerners that seems to be the last form of “acceptable” discrimination. It’s utterly ridiculous.

  16. gobo says:

    “the problem here is that Woody Harrelson’s character has the same last name as many people in the Ramapo community.” Soooo… there are many people. In the same community. With the same last name. But they’re not inbred. Yeah… just a coincidence?

  17. Nikki says:

    It was a MOVIE! I went to the cinema to see it – it was so well acted and was an amazing film to watch. It didn’t claim to be real life – again it’s a MOVIE. Geez these people are typical lazy, sue to get rich off of someone else’s hard work – they make me sick.
    I think Leo needs to step away from Marty for a while and get his teeth into some solid roles with a background – he has it in there to be wonderful, as a lot of his past work shows.
    I would recommend people see this film Casey is amazing.

  18. videli says:

    First, respect to the mountain people! Good moonshine. Second, I haven’t seen the movie, read the novel long time ago, but I thought it was all Pittsburgh, all Appalachia, nothing to do with New Jersey. NJ, get your own brand of hillbillyness! I used to live in the area and met a lot of former steel workers with roots in the country. Simply good people, blighted by history.

  19. bettyrose says:

    Uh.. then someone needs to sue the McC for his inbred hillbilly Oscar speech.

  20. taxi says:

    So it’s OK to portray “inbred hillbillies” as long as we don’t call them that? Good to know.

  21. kimbers says:

    Idk i travel around this country and it’s weird how people are regarding simple things like bathing and cleaning.. cough cough small town missouri and ohio…so I dont know how accurate the portrayal was, but sometimes the mirror or truth is an eye opener…I don’t see this case going anywhere.

  22. Sumodo1 says:

    Leo was amazing in “Revolutionary Road.” The internet is not kind at all regarding the Ramapo people–they should sue Google. BTW, if this case goes forward, there will be an “Ishtar” effect: the movie will be shown ad nauseum on cable to recoup losses.

  23. Lori says:

    I saw the movie and thought it was well acted. By all of them. Casey Affleck was especially good.

  24. fatty says:

    i dont think its bad dat he was disappointed
    he lost.

  25. Happy21 says:

    I wanted to see that movie SO BAD but blinked and it was gone. I’m going to have to watch it when it comes out on demand!

  26. kibbles says:

    America has turned much too PC. No one can make a mistake, mention a racial stereotype (which might have a lot whole lot of truth to it), or have an honest discussion about race and race relations in America without someone becoming offended and trying to ruin said person’s life. In many ways, Americans are always talking about race but not really talking about it. I don’t know if that makes sense. Anyway, if America is going to be uber-PC about discussing certain ethnic groups, they need to be PC about all ethnic groups, including “hillbillies” and mountain people. It sounds hypocritical that no one can make fun of certain ethnic groups, but poor whites are fair game.

    • Belle says:

      ^^This. Everything you said. I agree with the ‘too PC’ statement in general… and even more with the statement about hypocrisy. This board is a good example… a post about certain stereotypes will be full of very disgusted, emotional, angry comments that are full of condemnation. A post about ‘inbred hillbillies’? The majority of comments are either neutral (don’t really think it’s a big deal), or mock the stereotype even more. Lovely.

  27. Sloane Wyatt says:

    There is a lawsuit for everything. Frivolous.

  28. Nanou says:

    At least Leo has five Oscar nominations, that’s already a great achievement imo. Gary Oldman is a far better actor than him and he only has one nomination. Now that is really unfair …