THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Among the Wolves: The Characters
Jordan Belfort: Dental school dropout who by his early 30s is a
multi-millionaire taking companies public, running the biggest "pump and dump"
shop in New York and acquiring a highly developed taste for women, drugs and
"Jordan is a complex character, because you want to love him but you hate
what he's doing," notes producer McFarland. "Those complexities are very
exciting for an actor like Leo DiCaprio. Leo is so charismatic himself that I
think he was really able to channel Jordan and then bring an extra bravado that
makes his performance unique. Jordan has a lot of leadership qualities.
Unfortunately, he used his intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit to manipulate
people. And ultimately, his arrogance and his lifestyle brought him down. This
is a guy who lived like a rock star, but it was never enough, and that drove him
DiCaprio wanted to play Belfort from the first time he encountered "The Wolf
of Wall Street." To do so, however, he knew he would have to step off the edge.
"The big question that you have going into a movie like this is whether
audiences will respond to a character who is really committing atrocious acts.
But I think that rests on the honesty with which you depict a character like
Jordan. And that was one of the things that Marty said very early on to me. He
said, 'You know, through my experiences in making movies, if you're authentic
with the characters and who they are and don't betray that, people will go along
with anything.' That stuck with me."
He continues: "Our attitude was to pull no punches. Let's not try to
whitewash anything. Let's not try to make these characters 'likeable.' Let's
portray them for what they are and the unbelievable times they had during those
few years where they were completely unregulated and had no rules. These guys
were running wild with America's money in their hands. But watching them
disintegrate, watching them succumb to their own lust and greed, is incredibly
DiCaprio did a lot of research but during rehearsal, and on set, an
improvisatory spirit reigned. "We had reference points of where we wanted the
scenes to go but it was incredibly loose," he explains. "It was like a theater
company coming in and playing around with the material. We'd have a scene that
was only a page long and we'd be improvising for hours and hours. We had such
great actors that anything could happen and a lot of times it did."
Many scenes allowed DiCaprio to delve far beyond the usual boundaries of
human behavior - but one particular Quaalude trip stands out. "It all happens in
one day that Jordan realizes the FBI are bugging his house, Donnie messes up a
money transaction, and then Donnie and Jordan take these very, very, very
powerful pharmaceutical grade Quaaludes and take way to much of them because
they don't realize they have a delayed fuse. Marty created this insanely
hilarious, very intense and terrifying at times sequence where both Jonah and I
are just completely obliterated. I remember Jonah looked at me and says, 'This
is the most insane thing I've ever done in my entire life.' And I had to say the
same. It turned into this wild, surreal event in the life of these two maniacs."
Though he threw himself into Jordan's self-destructive ecstasy, DiCaprio also
became fascinated by his rousing speeches in front of the whole company. "The
speeches were very interesting because it almost became like a U2 concert," he
muses. "It took on a life of its own. He had these money-crazed stockbrokers
wanting to become rich at any cost and he had to ramp them up for warfare. So it
was like stepping up on stage as a rock star and having to get the audience
pumped up - only the irony is that he's pumping them up to be as greedy as
possible and to take
advantage of other. But those were incredibly memorable scenes for me because we
worked on them in great detail and once I got up on that stage it became its own
Donnie Azoff: Known for his crazy antics, including marrying his first cousin
and regularly transporting drugs where the sun don't shine, Donnie becomes
Jordan's loyal partner.
Jordan's partner in business, crime and most of all mischief is Donnie Azoff,
who goes from Jordan's seemingly nebbishy neighbor to the co-founder of his
quasi-legal brokerage and a kind of anti-role model with a disdain for any and
all rules. An Academy Award nominee for "Moneyball," Jonah Hill took on the
role with total commitment to its inherent comedy.
"Jonah brings a humorous quality right out of the gate," says McFarland.
"He's a fantastic actor but he's also incredibly funny and the way he plays
Donnie helps to lighten the whole film. The chemistry between him and Marty was
Says DiCaprio of Hill's work on the film: "His attitude throughout was, 'I
want to be your wing man in this endeavor. I want to go out there and support
you and Marty and show the essence of these characters, and this man in
particular.' That attitude was electric for all of us. He ignited each scene he
was in . . .his character is hilarious from the moment he comes on screen to the
Naomi: Jordan's gorgeous ex-model second wife, whom he dubs "the Duchess of
Bay Ridge," intending to shower her in luxury befit for royalty, until their
Playing Jordan's second wife Naomi - a glittering trophy who soon had enough
of Jordan's unceasing shenanigans -- is rising, 22 year-old Australian star
Margot Robbie. Robbie was able to leave her past behind and dive fully into the
life of a Queens princess. Says DiCaprio: "Playing a girl from Queens when
you're all the way from Australia and understanding the mannerisms and the hand
movements and the culture is a difficult undertaking. But, Margot worked so
diligently creating the character, she's incredibly believable."
Robbie says she could understand why Naomi might fall for Jordan. "I met
Jordan in person before we started filming and there's something about him that
is very likeable, even though he did terrible things. He just seems to be
someone who does everything to an extreme. He works to an extreme, makes money
to an extreme and then he did drugs to an extreme. Everything he does is ten
steps further than everyone else does it, and that can seem exciting."
Still she had to contemplate why a woman would stay with a philandering,
addicted, conniving husband, no matter how rich and attractive. "My take on it
was that Naomi is just 22 when they meet and she gets completely caught up in
this whirlwind surrounding Jordan. She's having fun, and then it
all begins to escalate very quickly. Before she knows it, she has kids with him
and suddenly he's a sex addict and a drug addict, and she realizes it's not the
lifestyle she wanted at all."
Playing Naomi also meant jumping directly into the madhouse of partying she
and Jordan were into at the time they met. "There are a lot of crazy scenes but
what was so fun is that everyone was so committed to making the best movie
possible, and they kept pushing further and further with it. Everyone was just
going out on a limb and that makes a really great environment," she says.
She especially enjoyed working in close quarters with DiCaprio. "Leo's so
very committed," she comments. "I could go in any direction and he'd be right
there. It pushed me to take more risks because he was."
Mark Hanna: An early mentor to Jordan at a soon to be defunct Wall Street
brokerage, who teaches him the first rule of the game: "move the money from the
client's pocket to your pocket."
When Matthew McConaughey took on the role of Mark Hanna, he brought his own
stamp to it. The actor, who this year has already received accolades for diverse
roles in "Mud" and "The Dallas Buyers Club," took off in his own direction.
Recalls DiCaprio: "Matthew came in with a very specific idea for this
character. Mark was one thing written on the page but then he came in and went
into this monologue that was so incredibly rich and colorful and insane and
really introduces the audience to the world of Wall Street at that time. He
managed to encapsulate all the insanity in this one moment. He used the
reference points that were in the script but ultimately all the color and all
the flavor is all him."
McConaughey also started the chant that became the Stratton Oakmont anthem.
"He started beating his chest like this weird drum and I sort of looked at Marty
like, 'Do you see what's going on here?' Later, I picked that up again for the
scene where I'm bring my troops back for war," DiCaprio explains. "So Matthew,
in the brief time that he was here, had an incredible influence on the mood and
tone of the film."
Patrick Denham: The straight arrow FBI agent surveilling Jordan's incredible
empire while putting together a money laundering case that will take it all down
Taking the role of the FBI Agent on Jordan's boastful, unapologetic trail is
Kyle Chandler, who in the past year has been seen in "Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo"
and "The Spectacular Now."
"The main impetus my character is to bring down Belfort," Chandler says.
"Denham is a guy who relishes going after Jordan because he is so absolutely
brazen and I think it outrages him."
Like the rest of the cast, Chandler found his own way into the character,
focusing on the contrasts between his net worth and that of the stockbrokers he
is chasing. "I think he's someone very dogged. He's a gentleman who thinks
people ought to play by the rules and if you don't play by the rules, you're
gonna be brought down. Throughout the film with all the chaos and all the
decadence and the beautiful women, the money and the cheating and the stealing
and the humor I'm the guy who's firm and loyal. But this is a guy who is not
shiny, whose car is full of burned out coffee cups, who wears a Sears jacket if
you will and mustard on his tie. I love playing a smart character who has a
little bit of an oaf in him."
Going tete-a-tete with DiCaprio when Agent Denham comes onto his yacht was a
highlight for Chandler. Says DiCaprio of the scene: "It's one of the most
important and integral scenes in the movie because my character is still
thinking that there's no consequences and there's no rules and I'm audacious
enough to try to bribe an FBI officer in my wickedly corrupt way -- and Kyle
just baited me, giving me just enough rope to hang myself ultimately. That was
all done through improvisation."
"Mad" Max Belfort: Jordan's father, known for his wild temper, who becomes
Chief Financial Officer of Stratton Oakmont and tries to reel in his son's
outrageous use of company credit cards on his everything from midgets to
Taking the role of Max Belfort is Rob Reiner, the actor and Oscar-nominated
filmmaker who hasn't been seen in a feature film role in a decade. He was
attracted instantly to the material. "It's a tale about what money can do to
people," he summarizes. "And at a time when we've just come out of a period of
excess in our economy that caused a financial collapse, I think it's very
interesting to look at what happens when people are allowed to run rampant
without any restraints or regulations."
Then there was the opportunity to work with Scorsese. "Marty is a great
chronicler of characters who are fatally flawed," he notes, "and Jordan is
another one of these larger-than-life, outsized guys undone by his terrible
human flaws. On the set, Marty creates a great atmosphere. He likes people to
improvise if they can, and there's no more fun for an actor than to be able to
Reiner took a careful approach to understanding Max as a father witnessing
his son veer into criminal activity. "He didn't try to raise a criminal; he just
wound up with one," observes Reiner. And the thing is you love your children no
matter what they are. So Max loves Jordan even if he's gone off the rails. I
also think Max is proud of the fact that Jordan is tremendously successful. I
don't think he loves the fact that he cheats on his wife and goes with hookers.
And he thinks Jordan has been excessive in his spending, but I think he's still
Jean-Jacques Saurel: The suave Swiss banker who launders millions for
Stratton Oakmont's executives at his corrupt bank in Geneva
Early on, Scorsese decided to approach Jean Dujardin, the Academy Award
winner for "The Artist" who is otherwise best known for his work in French
cinema. He was thrilled that the actor was willing to take on a smaller but
vital role - and bring the full force of his humor and charisma to it.
DiCaprio was also gratified that Dujardin came aboard. "He's another actor in
a long list of actors that infused this movie with incredible energy," DiCaprio
comments. "And his ability to improvise in English really astounded us. Anything
that Marty wanted to throw at him or I wanted to throw at him he would react to
and it was amazing to, just to be on set with him. The man was made for cinema."
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