The Wolf of Wall Street (2013 film)

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The Wolf of Wall Street
A man in a suit with a big smile on his face. Behind him a chaotic office scene.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by
Screenplay by Terence Winter
Based on The Wolf of Wall Street 
by Jordan Belfort
Starring
Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto
Edited by Thelma Schoonmaker
Production
companies
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 17, 2013 (2013-12-17) (Ziegfeld Theatre)
  • December 25, 2013 (2013-12-25) (United States)
Running time 180 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $100 million[2][3]
Box office $392 million[3]

The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort's memoir of the same name. It was released on December 25, 2013. The screenplay was written by Terence Winter, and the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who runs a firm that engages in securities fraud and corruption on Wall Street in the late 1980s.

The film also features Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, and Jean Dujardin. It is the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio, and the second between Scorsese and Winter, following Boardwalk Empire.

The film received positive reviews from critics, but was also controversial for its moral ambiguity, sexual content, presence of drug abuse, vulgarity and use of animals. The film grossed over $392 million worldwide against a $100 million budget making it Scorsese's highest grossing film, and was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay for Terrence Winter, and Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for DiCaprio and Hill, respectively. However, the film did not win in any category. It is the first major film to be released to theaters entirely through digital distribution.

Plot[edit]

After losing his job at a Wall Street firm, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a job at a boiler room trading company that specializes in penny stocks. Thanks to his aggressive pitching style and the high commissions, he makes a small fortune. He befriends a man named Donnie Azoff, and the two decide to go into business together. They recruit Belfort's accountant parents as well as several of Jordan's friends, whom Jordan trains in the art of the hard sell. The basic method of the firm is a pump and dump scam. To cloak this, Belfort gives the firm the respectable name of "Stratton Oakmont". After an exposé in Forbes, hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company.

Jordan becomes immensely successful and slides into a decadent lifestyle of prostitutes and drugs. Jordan has an affair with a woman named Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) at one of his parties. He divorces his wife and marries Naomi, and soon they have a daughter, Skylar. Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI begin investigating Stratton Oakmont.

Jordan instantly makes $22 million on his securing the IPO of Steve Madden, Ltd. To hide his money, Jordan opens a Swiss bank account with the corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) in the name of Naomi's aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), who is a British citizen and outside the reach of American authorities. He uses friends with European passports to smuggle cash to Switzerland.

Donnie gets into a public fight with Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), one of their money couriers, and Brad is arrested. Jordan also learns from his private investigator that the FBI is wiretapping his phones. Fearing for his son, Jordan's father pressures him to leave Stratton Oakmont and lay low. Jordan, however, cannot bear to quit.

Jordan, Donnie and their wives are on a yacht trip to Italy when they learn that Emma has died of a heart attack. Over the objections of his grieving wife and his yacht captain, Jordan decides to sail to Monaco so they can drive to Switzerland without getting their passports stamped at the border and settle the bank account, but a violent storm capsizes their yacht. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed by a seagull flying into the engine. Jordan considers this a sign from God and decides to sober up.

Two years later, the FBI arrests Jordan during the filming of an infomercial. Saurel, arrested in Florida over an unrelated charge, has told the FBI everything. Since the evidence against him is overwhelming, Jordan agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Disgusted with Jordan's lifestyle, Naomi tells Jordan she will divorce him and wants full custody of their children. Jordan throws a violent tantrum, gets high, and ends up crashing his car in his driveway during an attempt to abscond with their daughter.

The next morning, Jordan wears a wire to work. Jordan silently slips Donnie a note warning him about the wire. The note finds its way to the FBI, and Jordan is arrested for breaching his cooperation deal. The FBI raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont.

Despite this one breach, Jordan receives a reduced sentence for his testimony and is sentenced to 36 months in a minimum security prison in Nevada. After his release, Jordan makes a living hosting seminars on sales technique.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio/Warner Bros. won a bidding war against Brad Pitt/Paramount Pictures for the rights to Jordan Belfort's memoir The Wolf of Wall Street, and Martin Scorsese was considered to direct the film.[22][23] During pre-production, Scorsese worked on the film's script prior to working on Shutter Island. He describes having "wasted five months of [his] life" without getting a green light on production dates by the studio Warner Bros.[24] Jordan Belfort made $1 million on the movie rights.[25]

In 2010, Warner Bros. had offered Ridley Scott to direct the film, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the male lead.[26] However, Warner Bros. eventually dumped the project.[27]

In 2012, a green light was given by the independent company Red Granite Pictures, allowing no restrictions to the content development. Scorsese, knowing there were no limits to the content he would produce, came back on board – resulting in a R rating.[28] Red Granite Pictures also asked Paramount Pictures to distribute the film;[29] Paramount Pictures agreed to distribute the film in North America and Japan, but passed on the rest of the international market.[30]

In the film, most of the real-life characters' names originally in Belfort's memoir have been changed. Donnie Azoff is based on Danny Porush. The name was changed after Porush threatened to sue the filmmakers.[6][7][31] The FBI agent known as Patrick Denham is the stand-in for real-life Gregory Coleman,[32] and lawyer Manny Riskin is based on Ira Lee Sorkin.[33] Belfort's first wife, Denise Lombardo, is renamed Teresa Petrillo, while second wife Nadine Caridi became Naomi Lapaglia on-screen. In contrast, Mark Hanna's name remains the same as the LF Rothschild stockbroker who, like Belfort, was convicted of fraud and served time in prison.[34][35] The role of Aunt Emma was initially offered to Julie Andrews, who refused it as she was recovering from an ankle injury, and she was replaced by Joanna Lumley.[36]

In January 2014, Jonah Hill revealed in an interview with Howard Stern that he only made $60,000 (the lowest possible SAG-AFTRA rate for his amount of work) on the film while his co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, who also produced, received $10 million. Hill was determined to work with Scorsese, and wanted to play Donnie Azoff so badly that he was willing to do whatever it took to get the part.[37][38][39][40]

Filming[edit]

Filming began on August 8, 2012 in New York.[41] Jonah Hill announced that his first day of shooting was September 4, 2012.[42] Filming also took place in Closter, New Jersey[43] and Harrison, New York. In January 2013, additional scenes were shot at a set built in an abandoned office building in Ardsley, New York. Scenes at the beach house were filmed in Sands Point, New York.[44]

Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker stated that the film would be shot digitally instead of on film.[45] Scorsese, who had been a proponent of shooting on film, decided to shoot Hugo digitally because it was being photographed in 3D; however, The Wolf of Wall Street was originally planned to be shot digitally despite being filmed in 2D.[46] Schoonmaker expressed her disappointment with the decision, saying, "It would appear that we've lost the battle. I think Marty just feels it's unfortunately over, and there's been no bigger champion of film than him."[45] After extensive comparison tests during pre-production, eventually the majority of the film was shot on film stock while scenes that used green screen effects or low light were shot with the digital Arri Alexa.[46] The film contains 400-450 VFX shots.[47]

Use of animals[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street uses animals including a chimpanzee, a lion, a fish, and dogs.[48] The chimpanzee and the lion were provided by the Big Cat Habitat wildlife sanctuary in Sarasota County, Florida. The four-year-old chimpanzee, Chance, spent time with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and learned to roller skate over the course of three weeks. The sanctuary also provided a lion named Handsome because the film's trading company used a lion for its symbol.[49] Danny Porush, who was Jordan Belfort's partner, denied there being any animals in the office.[50]

In December 2013, prior to the film's premiere, the organization Friends of Animals criticized the use of the chimpanzee and organized a boycott of the film. Variety reported, "Friends of Animals thinks the chimp ... suffered irreversible psychological damage after being forced to act."[51] The Guardian said, "Criticism of The Wolf of Wall Street's use of a chimpanzee arrives as Hollywood comes under ever-increasing scrutiny for its employment of animals on screen," referring to a November 2013 report in The Hollywood Reporter that was critical of the American Humane Association's treatment of animals in films.[50] PETA also launched a campaign to highlight mistreatment of ape "actors" and to petition for DiCaprio not to work with great apes.[52]

Release[edit]

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese in Paris at the film's French premiere, December 2013.

The Wolf of Wall Street premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on December 17, 2013,[53] followed by a wide release on December 25, 2013. It was previously slated to be released on November 15, 2013, but the date was pushed back after film cuts were desired in order to reduce the run time.[54] On October 22, 2013, it was reported that it was set for a Christmas 2013 release.[55] Paramount officially confirmed the Christmas Day 2013 release date on October 29, 2013 with a running time of 165 minutes.[23][56] On November 25, 2013, the length was announced to be 179 minutes.[57] It was officially rated R for "sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence".[19] Scorsese had to edit sexual content and nudity to avoid an NC-17 rating.[58] By different counts, the film contains between 506 and 569 uses of the word "fuck",[59][60] and currently holds the record for the most uses of the word in a mainstream non-documentary film.[61][62][63]

The film is banned in Malaysia, Nepal and Kenya because of its scenes depicting sex, drugs and excessive use of swear words, and additional scenes have been cut in the versions playing in India. In Singapore, the film has been relegated to only a handful of theaters because of its ultra-restrictive rating.[64][65]

The film marks a change in film history when Paramount became the first major studio to distribute movies to theaters in digital format, eliminating 35mm film entirely. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was the last Paramount production to include a 35mm film version, while The Wolf of Wall Street was the first major movie distributed entirely digitally.[66][67]

Marketing[edit]

The film's first theatrical trailer was released on June 16, 2013 and features the song "Black Skinhead" by Kanye West.[19] A new trailer was released on October 29, 2013.[68] The songs featured in the second trailer are "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker" by 7Horse, "Blood Shot Eyes" by Black Strobe and "Hang You from the Heavens" by The Dead Weather.[19]

Critical response[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street received positive reviews, with many praising DiCaprio and Hill's performances, Scorcese's direction, and Winter's screenplay. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 77% approval rating, based on 246 reviews, with an average score of 7.7/10. The site's consensus states: "Funny, self-referential, and irreverent to a fault, The Wolf of Wall Street finds Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio at their most infectiously dynamic".[69] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 75 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[70]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine named The Wolf of Wall Street as the third best film of 2013, behind 12 Years a Slave and Gravity at numbers one and two, respectively. The movie was chosen as one of the top ten films of the year by the American Film Institute.[71] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said "it is the best and most enjoyable American film to be released this year."[72] The Chicago Sun-Times's Richard Roeper gave the film a "B+" score, saying the film was "good, not great Scorsese".[73]

Dana Stevens, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, wrote that the movie did not work for her after labeling in the headline of the review that the film was "Epic in size, claustrophobically narrow in scope." and was not a factor for them in any award category.[74] According to Marshall Fine of The Huffington Post the story "wants us to be interested in characters who are dull people to start with, made duller by their delusions of being interesting because they are high."[75] Some critics viewed the movie as an irresponsible glorification rather than a satirical takedown. DiCaprio responded that in his opinion the film does not glorify the excessive lifestyle it depicts.[76][77]

Top Ten Lists[edit]

Audience response[edit]

The film received a "C" rating from audiences surveyed by CinemaScore,[78] a rating lower than anything else in theaters the opening week of the film.[79] The Los Angeles Times argues that the film attracted conservative viewers by depicting a more moral tone in its marketing than the film itself depicted.[80]

Christina McDowell, daughter of Tom Prousalis, who worked closely with the real-life Belfort at Stratton Oakmont, wrote an open letter addressing Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Belfort himself, criticizing the film for insufficiently portraying the victims of the financial crimes created by Stratton Oakmont, for disregarding the damage that was done to her family as a result, and for giving celebrity to persons (Belfort and his partners, including her father) who do not deserve it.[81]

Steven Perlberg of Business Insider saw an advance screening of the film at a Regal Cinemas near the Goldman Sachs building, with an audience of financial workers. Perlberg reported cheers from the audience at all the wrong moments—"When Belfort — a drug addict attempting to remain sober — rips up a couch cushion to get to his secret coke stash, there were cheers."[82][79]

The former Assistant United States Attorney who prosecuted the real Belfort criticized both the movie and the book in which it is based. He said he believes some of Belfort's claims were "invented", as for instance "[Belfort] aggrandized his importance and reverence for him by others at his firm." He strongly criticizes the film for not depicting the "thousands of [scam] victims who lost hundreds of millions of dollars," not accepting the filmmakers argument in which that would detract attention from the wrongdoers. Furthermore, he deplores the ending—"beyond an insult" to his victims—in which the real Belfort appears, while showing "a large sign advertising the name of Mr. Belfort’s real motivational speaking company," and a positive depiction of Belfort uttering "variants of the same falsehoods he trained others to use against his victims."[83]

Box office[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street grossed $116.9 million in North America and $275.1 million internationally, for a worldwide gross of $392 million,[3] making it Scorsese's highest grossing film.[84] In North America, the film opened at number five in its first weekend, with $18.4 million in 3,387 theaters, behind The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Frozen, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and American Hustle.[85] In Australia, it is the highest grossing R-rated film, earning $12.96 million[86]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay for Winter, Best Actor for DiCaprio, and Best Supporting Actor for Hill. It was also nominated for four BAFTAs, including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, and two Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Home media[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 25, 2014.[87] On January 27, 2014, it was revealed that a four-hour director's cut would be attached to the home release.[88][89] It was later revealed by Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures that the home release would feature only the theatrical release.[90]

Soundtrack[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released December 17, 2013 (2013-12-17)
(Digital download)
Length 56:30
Label Virgin Records

The Wolf of Wall Street: Music from the Motion Picture is a soundtrack to the film of the same name. The film features both original as well as existing music tracks, and was released on December 17, 2013 for digital download.

Over 60 songs were used in the film, but only 16 were included on the official soundtrack. Notably, amongst the exemptions are original compositions by Theodore Shapiro.[91]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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