THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
In the Lap of Luxury: The Design
The design of "The Wolf of Wall Street" revels in color, brashness and excess
along with its characters. The film marks the second time that Scorsese has used
a digital format, and here it brings a contrasting realism to a highly
perishable world of lavish fantasies.
To create the look of the film, Scorsese teamed up with Oscar-nominated
cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, who most recently shot "Argo" and is known for
his body of work with Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu. "Rodrigo's a great
cinematographer and for me the experience was a very good one. He has a
freewheeling style, yet a poetic touch with the images and he was able to
capture as much as possible these characters in the frame even when they were
skewing off center so to speak."
Scorsese also collaborated closely with Emmy Award winning production
designer Bob Shaw ("Boardwalk Empire," "The Sopranos"), who honed in a very
specific experience of the 1990s -- that of the nouveau riche who came out of
middle-class Queens into a life of dazzling, sometimes gauche luxury without any
"Jordan Belfort was one of those who found he could actually acquire the keys
to the candy store - and he did not really exercise any restraint with the candy
once he had those keys," muses Shaw. "So the direction we had to go in is pretty
Indeed it seemed all of America was going for bigger and more opulent at all
levels of design in that era. "It was a period of great economic prosperity and
everyone was finding that there were
things available to them that had not previously been. So things like the
McMansion became popular," observes Shaw. "The average amount of square footage
in houses suddenly doubled and it seemed nothing was ever enough. Jordan
epitomizes all of that."
Shaw recalls that he and Scorsese looked for the most sprawling location they
could find for Jordan's house, where he moves with his second wife, Naomi. "The
house we ultimately used was even more over-the-top than our initial first
choice. I remember I turned to Marty when we were trying to find our way out of
the house and I said, 'Well, the fact that we're getting lost trying to find our
way out of the house might be telling us that we're in the right place.'"
For the interior, Shaw focused on the touches Naomi would have brought.
"She's someone who was very aspirational and I think when Jordan marries her he
also acquires her taste. She has a sort of Ralph Lauren aesthetic and I think
wants the family to look like the landed gentry. She wants the house to look
like Old Money, so there's plenty of Shabby Chic."
In bringing Stratton Oakmont to life, Shaw took the company through several
incarnations: from its stark garage beginnings to its wild ending as a no-limits
twist on traditional brokerage houses. "It starts as a fly-by-night, unpolished
penny stock brokerage, then we have the more 80s office before the world had
abandoned peach and teal and glass block; and then we have the offices that
Jordan always wanted: offices that reflect that high level of privilege he has
attained, that are almost a satire on L.F. Rothschild, where he began his
career," Shaw explains.
An echoing progression takes place with the characters' clothing. Academy Award
winning costume designer Sandy Powell - who has collaborated with Scorsese on
"Gangs of New York," "The Aviator," "The Departed," "Shutter Island" and "Hugo"
- says reading Jordan Belfort's book was the start of her process. "I knew a
little bit of what went on but it was still shocking to read it," she recalls.
"Then, reading the script, it was incredible to imagine the excess and absurdity
of it all."
Still, she knew the costumes would be a challenge, pushing her into fresh
territory. "It's not the kind of script I would normally choose to do," she
admits. "But having worked with Marty on five other films I knew that whatever
it would be, it would be interesting because he was doing it. Still it was
something completely different for me because the characters are so extreme. The
question was: how do you convey the outrageous characters through the clothing
as well as their behavior?"
She had extensive conversations with Scorsese. "Marty always has quite clear
ideas of how he wants things to look and he knows a lot about clothing," she
explains. "So we discussed the characters individually very early on, and as I
dressed the actors, I would show him the fitting pictures and he'd say, 'Yes, I
like this, but not this one so much.'"
Then she divided the film into three fashion eras. "We start in the '80s with
the huge shoulders, the big hair, the kind of loose fitting clothing. Then we
get into the middle '90s, when things start to get a little bit more
streamlined, and the colors start getting darker until there is lots of black by
the end of the '90s, before Jordan's fall," she says.
Powell notes that the look Belfort and his cohorts went for wasn't so much
high fashion as it was simply high priced. "The men were really all trying to
emulate classic Savile Row tailoring, so a lot of it was very preppy and
conservative," she explains. "With the women I could have more fun with some
She especially enjoyed dressing Margot Robbie as Naomi. "God what a body to
dress," the designer remarks. "She's so young that this clothing was new to her.
She would say, 'Oh my God I can't believe people used to wear these things.' And
I'd say, 'Yes, we did used to wear things like that.' There's even a couple of
things that she wears that belonged to me from that era."
Powell adds: "One of my favorite pieces is an outfit that Margot wears where
she's head-to- foot in Versace with gold boots and a jacket with gold bits. I
call her 'Versace Superwoman' in that moment."
Another long-time Scorsese collaborator, visual effects supervisor Rob Legato
- whose skills come into play when Jordan lands a helicopter in his backyard or
sails his giant yacht into a fearsome storm -- notes that this film had a
different feeling throughout
"It has a really high octane kind of energy to it so things are always
slightly over the top. It's not quite a traditional narrative, so the challenge
in the visual effects was fitting in with that very specific tone Marty wanted,"
Legato explains. "The camera moves are really fast and the action is very fast
paced. So with a lot of the stuff I'm doing - such as a car crash sequence --
everything is just a little bit faster and odder. I think the filmmaking
reflects Jordan's sense of hubris: this idea that he can go as far as he wants
and he won't get caught."
Following production, Scorsese repaired to the editing room, where he worked
once again with Thelma Schoonmaker, the 3-time Oscar winner with whom he has
teamed for 4 decades. He also collaborated with 3-time Academy Award winning
composer Howard Shore on the film's score and with music supervisors Robbie
Robertson and Randall Poster to compile the film's soundtrack, which veers from
Prokofiev to Muddy Waters to the Ramones.
As the final picture came together, DiCaprio found himself as entranced as
when he first became intrigued by Jordan Belfort's rise and fall. The actor and
producer summarizes: "In some ways, I think today's audiences are very
desensitized to a lot of things that they see up on the screen.
But it's so exciting the way that Marty has allowed the cast and the crew to
play with this story that I think it resonates in a different way."
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