The truths about Madoff and The Wizard of Lies
NEW YORK For the second time in little more than a year, a TV film probes Bernie Madoff, the fraudster-financier who in 2008 made explosive news with his arrest for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme that ruined thousands of his clients at a cost of $60 billion or more.In February 2016, an ABC docudrama starred Richard Dreyfuss as Madoff and Blythe Danner as his wife Ruth.
Now HBO is presenting The Wizard of Lies, which takes a retrospective tact framed by its subject as he serves his 150-year prison sentence.
Robert De Niro is Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer is Ruth. Barry Levinson directs. The threesome gathered to talk about their film.
What were the challenges in making The Wizard of Lies? Pfeiffer: It was the first time I had ever played a real person, one who was still alive, and I felt that burden! I know a lot of women of Ruth’s generation who were focused on the family, the children and left all of the rest to their husbands. That was MY mother, who never had a job but instilled in me the importance of having a career. I felt like I was responsible for Ruth’s truth being represented. I used to have a lot of conversations: ‘Barrrrrrrry! We have to be SURE!’
And did she feel sure? Pfeiffer: I do, now that I’ve seen the finished product. Levinson: I was sent the script for the other one, but I was doing something else and I didn’t read it. Then this (The Wizard of Lies) script came up. I never did see the other film, because once we decided to do this one, I didn’t want to risk being influenced.
An actor legendary for how he transforms himself into each character he plays, how did De Niro grasp Madoff ? De Niro: Everybody has their reasons for what they do, and he had his. In acting school, you never ‘comment’ on the character you play.
You never think, ‘He’s a bad person, so therefore I’m going to do things to make him look bad.’ That’s Rule No. 1. You find a way for the character to justify his own actions.
He gave off a mysterious, phantom-type thing, from what we could surmise. I could see how that could help explain how he attracted people. But who is he REALLY?