Leonardo DiCaprio on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Controversy

January 1, 2014

Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ is defending the movie which has proven controversial as some feel that it glorifies and glamorizes the real-life story of ex-stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who served prison time for securities fraud.

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort in the movie which is based on his memoir of the same title. The three-hour long movie is filled with scene after scene of the lavish and depraved lifestyle — excessive illicit drug use, sex orgies on private planes, etc. — depicted in the book. While some critics herald the movie as a masterpiece others have denounced it for these very excesses.

Victims of Jordan Belfort’s penny stock swindles, some of whom lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, those same dollars that fueled his day-to-day decadence, have also spoken out in various media reports. Also Christina McDowell, daughter of Tom Prousalis who was among Belfort’s colleagues who were convicted of securities fraud crimes wrote a scathing denouncement, ‘An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself’ which was published in LA Weekly.

Martin Scorsese was infamously confronted by an Academy member at the official Academy screening of the movie, who reportedly said, “Shame on you!” And audience reaction thus far has not been overwhelmingly positive according to CinemaScore which reports it received a “C” rating on opening day, which was Christmas.

In light of the ever-growing controversy, Leonardo DiCaprio, in a new interview with Variety defends the movie and how the narrative unfolds. He said, “This film may be misunderstood by some; I hope people understand we’re not condoning this behavior, that we’re indicting it. The book was a cautionary tale and if you sit through the end of the film, you’ll realize what we’re saying about these people and this world, because it’s an intoxicating one.”

He went on to praise the film and the filmmaker, saying, “I think it’s amazing somebody like Martin Scorsese is still making films that are vital and talked about, and have an element of controversy about them and are appealing to people of my generation. We grew up watching his films and he’s still making stuff that’s punk rock. It’s an amazing achievement.”

While the movie may draw mixed reactions, critics overall have praised Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. Which begs the question, how did he approach the role, and indeed the portrayal of the real-life character of Jordan Belfort who is so polarizing even to this day, as he is in the news now for shopping around a reality TV series.

Leonardo DiCaprio addressed this as well saying, “The severe honesty in which Jordan Belfort portrayed a hedonistic time in his life on Wall Street. It’s rare when someone is unafraid to divulge how dark they went. With all these people on Wall Street who’ve screwed over so many people since 2008, I became obsessed with playing a character who made me understand the mentality and nature of the seduction of Wall Street and greed. I appreciated his honesty.”

The debate will be ongoing, but the mere fact that the movie has sparked such a debate is encouraging. It’s a point not lost on DiCaprio who says, “People — no matter what their attitude is after seeing the film — should understand this is a film that’s outside the box and is very difficult to get done in this day and age; it almost never happens.”

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ has received two Golden Globe nominations. It will interesting as well to see how many Oscar nominations it will receive or if, possibly it may be snubbed due to controversy. The trailer video is below.

Pictures: PR Photos

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