Static Multimedia - January 9, 2014

 

Leonardo DiCaprio :“The Wolf of Wall Street” Interview

 

For many years now, Leonardo DiCaprio has made his mark as a movie star who shuns glossy Hollywood films in favor of serious work in films like The Aviator, Blood Diamond, and The Departed. But the 39-year-old DiCaprio is a master chameleon who has a great gift for comedy and he puts that talent to abundant use in The Wolf of Wall Street, a dark satire about the rise and fall of a crooked stock promoter who bilked unsuspecting customers out of millions during the eighties and nineties. The film has already earned two Golden Globe nominations – one for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and another for DiCaprio as Best Actor. A fourth Oscar nomination may well be in the cards for the heartthrob and avowed environmentalist.

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, a man fond of yachts, mansions, hookers, cocaine and a generally bacchanal lifestyle, DiCaprio soars in the role of a working class hero who indulged his most wicked fantasies as part of his pursuit of the American Dream. 
This latest take on Wall Street’s licentious culture of entitlement marks the fifth collaboration between the handsome star and director Martin Scorsese, and Leo may well gather yet another Oscar nomination for the manic zeal he invests in his performance.

“We wanted to create the sense of a modern-day Roman Empire,” DiCaprio, who brought the story to Scorsese and spent several years trying to finance the film, explains. “We wanted the film to have this sense of everyone giving in to every temptation, minus the maidens putting grapes in our mouths….Belfort (is a symbol) of everything that’s wrong with today’s society. This hedonistic lifestyle, this period in Wall Street’s history when Jordan gave in to every carnal indulgence.”

The Wolf of Wall Street co-stars rising 23-year-old Australian actress Margot Robbie as Belfort’s second wife, a sex siren who delights in the excess and revels in the general debauchery.

Though gossip columns were anxious to link DiCaprio and Robbie as a real-life couple, they were merely good friends during the shoot which features a scene where Robbie’s character stands in a doorway stark naked to tempt Belfort. Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Matthew McConaughey, and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) round out the supporting cast.

In the interview that follows, Leonardo DiCaprio opens up about his enduring admiration for Scorsese and how he loved the chance to go “a bit ape” while making Wolf.

 

 

Leonardo, how did you see the mood of Wolf of Wall Street?

We wanted the film to be a hypnotic ride the audience goes on, so they get lost in this world and not see the destruction left in the wake of this giant ship of greed…It was an incredibly excessive culture that prevailed on Wall Street and still exists. There was this general feeling that you could get away with almost anything and many people did even though things eventually caught up with Belfort.

What did you make of your character, Jordan Belfort?

I had the chance to meet with Belfort and he was very open and willing to reveal some of the most embarrassing details about his life during that time. Beyond what he had already revealed in his book (on which the film is based – ED), I was able to gather a lot of great stories that added to my understanding of him and we were able to put those things in the movie.

He said to me early on, “If you’re going to depict me, let me be even more candid with you than what’s in the book.” We all know, and he knows, we’re depicting the darker side of his nature.
 That’s what underlies everything that takes place in the film. This is a story which is ultimately about the failings of human nature and the kind of havoc that can play in the context of the financial system as a while.


This is the fifth film you’ve made with Martin Scorsese. How has your collaboration evolved over the years?

It’s deepened to the point where we can improvise more than ever because our understanding of what we are trying to achieve is so close. So much of this film depended on creating a wild and reckless atmosphere and as an actor you need to trust the director completely to be able to let yourself go as much as I did on this film. I didn’t hold anything back. No stunt doubles (for the nude orgy scenes) for me, either. That’s all me! (Laughs)

What drove Belfort to such incredible excess which would ultimately lead to his downfall?

He was living in an era where nothing was enough, where opportunism and greed ran amok. It was as if the money he was making gave him this feeling of omnipotence and the drugs he took just fuelled that sensibility. It was a culture of individualism.

But of course we should realize that as human beings we should be able to overcome this kind of selfish attitude and live in harmony with each other without trampling on other people.


One of the most hilarious and striking scenes in the film comes when your character has overdosed on Quaaludes and is crawling on the floor?

We wanted it to be this hallucinogenic ride, this roller coaster, and that sequence specifically was like a small film within the film and we kind of treated it that way. “
A lot of it came from Jordan talking to me about what Quaaludes were like. I had him rolling around on the floor for me and he was very helpful with that, but a lot of the research that I did really came from watching this one video on loop. It’s on YouTube, it’s called “The Drunkest Man In The World” and it’s a man trying to get a beer, but he’s rolling around the floor for hours. That was a huge inspiration for me.

There are several nude scenes in the film. Did you enjoy getting into that?

(Laughs) It was fun. I didn’t think much of the nudity because I was trying to accurately portray what this guy’s life was like and all that stuff came with it and all of it really happened. It was all me flopping around naked. No stunt doubles were used in my place during the making of this film. (Laughs)

Did you become friends with the real Belfort?

No, but even though what he did was deplorable, I do respect anyone who’s going to be forthright about his mistakes. He’s not the way he was anymore. 
There are a lot of responsible people in that job. But you can see how excess can run rampant. That attitude is not just Wall Street – it’s part of human nature. There are people in Hollywood who are manipulative and obsessed with wealth. Anywhere there’s power, there’s going to be the temptation and willingness to abuse that power.

Did you ever feel yourself getting caught up in Belfort’s wicked ways?

I felt like a rock star while I was making this film, especially when we were shooting scenes in front of all the extras and spraying champagne and all that stuff. I had a lot of fun doing it but I didn’t get so wrapped up that I wanted to indulge myself away from the set! (Laughs)

I still can’t believe the guy survived everything he was doing. His debauchery was beyond belief and I looked at my character as an emperor that was giving in to every possible temptation. That was the kind of mindset we had where we added an orgy scene on a 747, which was a full day of filming. It was insane. (Laughs)


Do you feel that Wolf is very close in theme to Goodfellas?

I don’t want to say that Marty does ‘unconscious trilogies,” but Wolf is thematically the same type of movie as Goodfellas and Casino. It’s like, “What would the kids of those guys in Goodfellas go on to do?”

The more I started researching Wall Street, the more I thought, “These guys have an underworld mentality.” Marty (Scorsese) described it to me as this primal urge that takes hold of people.


There has been some criticism of the film accusing it of glorifying the criminal and depraved behavior of Belfort and his fellow stock promoters?

This is a film that’s taking some chances which is rare these days… But anyone who doesn’t think that we are repulsed by this world is missing the point. We are not glorifying the behavior of the characters just as Marty was not glorifying the behaviour of gangsters in Goodfellas. Marty is trying to portray people as they are without trying to sugarcoat anything or apologize for their actions. He just shows things the way they are.

By no means do we condone this behavior or think of this as a way of life. But I look at the world around me, and this is our culture. This attitude is incredibly destructive and one of the most damaging things in the modern world. And we wanted people to understand our fascination with it. That, in a lot of ways, was the purpose of doing this movie.


Do you worry that you might have gone too far in portraying the excessive nature of Belfort and his Wall street types?

Marty and I would look at each other and ask, “Are we going too far?” But rarely was the answer “yes.” Jordan’s character had been brewing in me for a while. I had been thinking about this for six years, so I knew something was going to come out. Some beast was going to come out. I just didn’t know what it was going to be.

There’s an abundance of temptation in Hollywood, yet you’ve become a serious environmentalist and avoided the glamour and excess?

I had enough fun to last me a lifetime when I was in my twenties and I was lucky enough to have people around me who kept me from going overboard. Fame can be very destructive, but I caught on pretty quickly that film stars live in a kind of parallel universe where reality can get distorted. We don’t change society and our work isn’t going to eliminate famine or prevent wars.

You turn 40 this year. Any thoughts on that milestone?

Turning 40 isn’t an issue for me. I haven’t really changed in any significant way as an individual or as an actor since I was 16 and my career was beginning to take off. I had a vision of what I wanted to do with my life and I’ve pretty much stuck to that ever since.

Since I finished work on Wolf, I’ve been able to take a sabbatical and it’s been a good time and a bit of a luxury for me.


Did you do a lot of traveling?

I’ve traveled a bit, but mainly I’ve been able to take time to reconnect with myself and my friends and devote a lot of attention to projects involving the protection of the environment. I’ve enjoyed this chance to relax and take a step back from my work. Now I’m looking forward to working on several new projects.

You’re not known for leading a particularly flashy lifestyle by Hollywood standards. Do you have any vices?

I have a passion for collecting vests. I’m not really obsesses with sports cars or private jets or things like that. My vests are a little bit like how women feel about shoes, I get that! (Laughs) Even if I see a vest that is identical in style and color but has a little something different to it, I have to have it!

I also like collecting art and Warhol is one of my favorite artists, but the biggest purchase I’ve ever made was the house I bought for my mother.


How do you feel at this point in your life?

I’ve been given an opportunity to finance movies based on my name and what am I going to do with that? I’d feel like an idiot if I squandered that opportunity.

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