Rag­ing BULLS and BEARS

Martin Scors­ese’s lat­est dives into the greed-driven, ex­ces­sive life of Wall Street up­starts in the ’90s

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW YORK — When hard-liv­ing, Quaalude-pop­ping Wall Street player Jor­dan Belfort was ar­rested in the late ’90s for money laun­der­ing and se­cu­ri­ties fraud, no less a per­son­age the vice-chair­man of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Se­cu­ri­ties Deal­ers rose to de­nounce the up­start founder of the no­to­ri­ous se­cu­ri­ties firm Strat­ton Oak­mont. The chair­man la­belled him “the rea­son Wall Street has a black eye” and sug­gested Belfort should go to jail for the rest of his life. The chair­man’s name? Bernie Mad­off. No one ap­pre­ci­ates the irony of that mag­nif­i­cent, out­size hypocrisy more than screen­writer Terence Win­ter, who adapted Belfort’s 2007 mem­oir than any­thing.” Even so, that at­ti­tude proved ir­re­sistible fod­der to DiCaprio, es­pe­cially in light of the wide­spread fraud that caused the col­lapse of the fi­nan­cial mar­kets in 2008. When he got his hands on the mem­oir, DiCaprio was cap­ti­vated, call­ing it, with a laugh, “a re­flec­tion of ev­ery­thing that’s wrong in to­day’s so­ci­ety. “(Dur­ing) this time pe­riod in Wall Street’s his­tory, Jor­dan ba­si­cally gave into ev­ery car­nal in­dul­gence pos­si­ble and was ob­sessed with greed and ob­sessed with him­self, essen­tially,” Di Caprio says. “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.” Scors­ese, who was first pitched the project af­ter mak­ing The De­parted, is not averse to projects that come to him from ac­tors. Both Rag­ing Bull and The King of Com­edy came to him from his erst­while lead­ing man Robert De Niro. “When some­thing is given to me by other peo­ple, I don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­spond to it right away,” Scors­ese says. “King of Com­edy was 10 years be­fore I was able to come around to it. Rag­ing Bull took six or seven years. I have to find my own way with it.” Ex­ac­er­bat­ing the process, the ma­jor stu­dios proved to be ner­vous about the con­tent of the film, which fea­tures both phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and sex­ual ex­cess on an epic scale. Scors­ese fi­nally came to it af­ter mak­ing Hugo (2011), one of the rare fea­ture films he’s made that’s friendly to a ju­ve­nile au­di­ence. “Af­ter Hugo is when we fi­nally pulled it all to­gether,” Scors­ese says. “I thought I’d found a way that I could ap­proach the ma­te­rial in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive from my other films.” One such ap­proach was to shoot the film in an un­com­pro­mis­ing man­ner. An early scene in Belfort’s book in­volves a hooker us­ing Belfort’s pos­te­rior as a can­dle holder. The scene makes it to the movie, thanks to DiCaprio’s de­ci­sion to “pull no punches, push the en­ve­lope and go the dis­tance with it. “We were try­ing to de­pict like a mod­ern-day Caligula and all the de­bauch­ery that comes with it,” he says. “So you de­tach your­self from your own in­di­vid­u­al­ity for the ac­cu­rate por­trayal of a char­ac­ter. That’s what we do.” Jor­dan Belfort joins a rogue’s gallery of ex­treme per­son­al­i­ties DiCaprio has por­trayed, in­clud­ing reck­less mil­lion­aire Howard Hughes in The Avi­a­tor, dru­gad­dicted proto-punk Jim Car­roll in The Bas­ket­ball Diaries and pan­sex­ual poet Arthur Rim­baud in To­tal Eclipse. “Some of my favourite films of all time have been a re­flec­tion of the darker side of hu­man na­ture,” he says. “In a way, those films are an ac­cu­rate por­trayal of hu­man­ity. “And I wanted to do a film that was a de­pic­tion of the times that we live in,” he says. “Jor­dan Belfort, to me, is not the prob­lem, but he rep­re­sents some­thing within our very na­ture and some­thing within our so­ci­ety that is very wrong.” Scors­ese con­curs, even as he adds Belfort to a col­lec­tion of un­likely movie pro­tag­o­nists that in­clude real-life fig­ures such as Frank Rosen­thal ( Casino) and Henry Hill ( Good­fel­las). They all have a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. “They’re hu­man be­ings,” Scors­ese says. “And we are not all one thing, are we? We’re ca­pa­ble of many dif­fer­ent things un­der dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances. “I’m in­ter­ested in peo­ple. And some peo­ple who are ba­si­cally good do bad things.” The Wolf of Wall Street opens Thurs­day at Grant Park, Kil­do­nan Place, McGil­livray VIP, Polo Park and St. Vi­tal cine­mas. It is rated 18A.

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