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Flamboyance, fraud and fortune, Leonardo DiCaprio talks of his hedonistic role in the glitzy The Wolf of Wall Street

He’s taken on the roles of iconic people like Frank Abagnale, Howard Hughes and J Edgar Hoover and now Leonardo DiCaprio is back as the stock market manipulating Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. The actor tells us more about why people will remember this film, why Martin Scorsese is his go-to director and the experience of memorising long speeches as dialogue.

On Jordan Belfort’s life.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Wall Street was so incredibly unregulated, it was like the wild, wild West. And Jordan Belfort was one of those wolves who took advantage of the loopholes to make a gigantic fortune. To me, his story seemed to embody that specific time when our financial institutions went completely awry.

Martin Scorsese as the perfect director to tell this story.
From the start, I couldn’t stop thinking of Marty for this material. We have seen from his work that he’s able to bring a reality, a life and a sense of comedy to the darkness which is very apparent in this story, and that’s something very, very few filmmakers can accomplish. I always remember Marty telling me that ‘Goodfellas’ was a dark comedy – so that’s why I re-approached him and said look we have these collaborators who want to give us full reign to explore this dark side and not just do a ‘U’ rated version and they want to give us the budget to show this epic expanse of the world in 90’s in America.

On depicting dishonest characters honestly.
Some of the greatest characters of all times have been horrible people! But watching them disintegrate and succumb to their own lust and greed, was ironic but incredibly entertaining. It was one of those rare opportunities where you have to improvise and do something that is our generation. I got the chance to meet Jordan Belfort himself, and get a first account of a lot of these incidents and then there was this massive rehearsal period with a lot of improvisation and then we just integrated all that improvisation into the filmmaking process.

Long speeches as dialogue.
The speeches were very interesting because it almost became like a U2 concert. It took on a life of its own. Jordan had these money-crazed stockbrokers wanting to become rich at any cost and he had to ramp them up for warfare. So it was like stepping up on stage as a rock star and having to get the audience pumped up – only the irony is that he’s pumping them up to be as greedy as possible and to take advantage of others.

Jonah Hill as a co-actor.
The earliest conversations I had with him was even before he got cast, and he looked at me and said ‘this was the role I was meant to play; this character speaks to me, I know these people, I have seen this world and I am the man to play this character.’ And when an actor has that kind of passion you immediately want to let the director know that there’s somebody who wants to throw everything into it. Then Scorsese met him, and immediately hired him and after that his attitude throughout was, ‘I want to be your wing man in this endeavor.’

What makes this one stand out?
When you go into an endeavor of a film-making process, you aren’t very flexible about what’s yet to come, this is an example of one those films where a group of artistes get together and saying let’s see what happens; let’s come incredibly prepared but let’s see what magic happens in that moment. And that’s why, to me, there are so many memorable sequences that may even take a while to resonate with the people. People are very desensitised to what they see on screen; but I think the way Marty let us play I think people are really going to remember this movie.
The film is set to release today.

—Aakanksha Devi

 

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