The day that Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese started working together is a day that should be commemorated by some type of holiday, if you ask me. Over the years they’ve delivered amazing productions such as Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed, but this year the duo are trying to one-up themselves yet again. A tall task indeed, but Leo has been extremely passionate about playing real-life schemer Jordan Belfort ever since reading his tell-all book, and that passion translates into some incredibly entertaining cinema that stands out against the year’s best films. A lot of people are loving The Wolf Of Wall Street, including myself, because it’s impossible to deny the amazing meeting of minds between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.
It takes more than two people to produce such a fantastic film though, and that was obvious during the press day I attended for The Wolf Of Wall Street. Not only were Leonadro DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese present, but much of the surrounding team were there to weigh in as well. Fellow actors Kyle Chandler and Rob Reiner were on hand, writer Terence Winter was there to explain the writing process, and producers Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Riza Aziz, and Joey McFarland all were there to talk about the film’s financial journey. Sure, journalists wanted to talk to Leo and Marty most of all, but everyone stayed involved in what was a fun discussion – especially when Rob Reiner dropped some comedic relief.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
Frequently throughout Martin Scorsese’s career, actors will initiate a project they feel extremely passionate about, which was the case when Leo came to Marty with The Wolf Of Wall Street. To start off, the moderator asked Leo and Marty to describe how Leo discovered the content and how he developed it with Martin Scorsese:
Leonardo DiCaprio: About six years ago, I picked up this novel by Jordan Belfort, which was a fascinating read simply because I felt like his biography was a reflection of everything that’s wrong in today’s society. This hedonistic lifestyle, this time period in Wall Street’s history where Jordan basically gave into every carnal indulgence possible and was obsessed with greed and obsessed with himself essentially. He was so unflinching in his account of this time period and so honest and so unapologetic in this biography, I was compelled to play this character for a long period of time. We almost got the financing during Shutter Island and the film fell apart, but I was obsessed with having Marty direct this film. Terry Winter wrote an incredible screenplay that I think was really catered to Marty’s strengths and his style, and so it was a long waiting period to get this film financed and finally, our friends here at Red Granite said, “Look, we want to take a chance on this film. We want it to be a grand American epic of greed and pull no punches, push the envelope, and go the distance with it.” So I re-approached it and brought it back to Marty and said, “Look, we really don’t get opportunities like this very often. These things really don’t come out of the studio system.” Thankfully he agreed to do the film again and here we are.
Martin Scorsese: I came into it I think when [Leonardo] gave me the script and then I met Terry and the meeting was about coming up with a television series, which became Boardwalk Empire. [Laughs] But in any event, I read the script and as in many, many times for me, when something is given to me by other people, I don’t necessarily respond to it right away. King of Comedy was 10 years before I was able to come around to it. Raging Bull took six years, seven. I have to find my own way with it, I think. I had in mind to do another film, but we had just finished The Departed and that’s when we tried to get the financing of The Wolf of Wall Street and we found a lot of resistance from the studios for that. I wonder, having gone through The Departed and having gone through some tougher films, the issue is it worth fighting that process because it’s all about fighting that, unfortunately. It isn’t about good people, bad people. It’s about what they need, what we want to do, what we could deliver for the market place that still we feel is strong with the kind of work we do and could you go through it again. It may not be worth it. It just isn’t at a certain time in your life, and so, at the same time, the market came apart, September 2008, and we decided to do Shutter Island. After that, came back again, came back again, but I owed Hugo. I wanted to do Hugo. The reasons why I wanted to do Hugo are personal. After Hugo is when we finally pulled it all together. As I said, the opportunity was back and I thought I found a way that I could approach the material in a different perspective from my other films.
Directing his attention to writer Terence Winter, the moderator asked about how he approached this script:
Terence Winter: I read the book in galley form somewhere in 2007. Read it in one sitting. I just could not put it down. I couldn’t believe that what I was reading was actually a true story about a person who actually was still alive at the end of it. [Laughs] Just hilarious. Leo came on board. I had the luxury of being able to then proceed to write the script with Leo’s voice in my head, knowing that, God willing, Marty would also be directing it. I set about the research process. I met with Jordan several times – lunches, dinners, had dinner with his parents who are absolutely lovely, his ex-wife, spoke to the FBI agent who arrested him who assured me that every single thing in that book was true, which was even more incredible to me. I went out to Stratton Oakmont, his house, I actually had Jordan come in to CAA and give one of those incredible speeches to a room full of assistants to see him actually do it, which was pretty incredible. I think the early conversations about the writing were that I really wanted to preserve Jordan’s voice. The whole idea of his observations about things, the various stages of being high, that sort of thing, is it didn’t necessarily lend itself to dialogue, but were really incredible and fascinating and compelling, and we had had some conversations about maybe approaching the script in that style where you’d actually hear Jordan’s observations and once I had the license to go do that, I wrote the script and Marty and Leo took it from there.