Leonardo DiCaprio usually lets his screen work do the talking for him. But, to mark the DVD release of 'The Wolf of Wall Street', for which he garnered YET another Oscar nomination, the much-feted actor sat down to discuss just what was so special about bringing the reckless hedonism of corrupt Wall Street broker Jordan Belfort to life, and why he likes making Martin Scorsese chuckle...
Q: What interested you about Jordan Belfort?
A: He was incredibly unflinching in his honesty. Jordan Belfort is reflecting on a time period in his life where he was incredibly hedonistic and debaucherous and gave into every temptation possible and was motivated by greed. When you are looking for a character to play, certainty one that explores the darker nature of humanity, you want something that reverberates as honest.
Leonardo DiCaprio put a Herculean effort into his portrayal of Jordan Belfort
He was intricately a part of creating this character with me. I got to research the real man and spent a lot of time with him. I wanted to do a film of this nature that was almost like a modern day fall of the roman empire, and what better place to do it than on Wall Street?
Q: What challenges did you face making this movie?
A: This was a film where we tried to pull no punches; we tried to push the envelope every day. It was very improvisational and thematically we were not doing a film that I thought people were going to rush to the theatres to see as it’s about Wall Street.
Martin Scorsese (Director) was very specific about saying let’s make this a satire, let’s make this a dark comedy- we should be on this journey with these people to understand the fun and the temptation that they had to keep pushing forward. With that approach everything was easy, we tried to give an accurate portrayal of these people, and I think we did.
Q: Why was Martin Scorsese the perfect director for this film?
A: There are not many people that can capture the essence of the different aspects of human nature as well as Martin does and that’s because he’s not held to specific plot structures. When you are acting for him, he’s looking for something within your performance, within your portrayal of those characters that ultimately shape what the movie is about; your performance becomes the movie.
For us as actors we push the boundaries as much as we can but sometimes we do sequences that are not relevant to the plot structure, but ultimately shape what this movie is. Martin Scorsese is such a master of filmmaking and this film needed a combination of different things; that’s why I stuck with the idea of getting him to do this movie after six years. I knew there was no one that could portray these people the way he could.
Q: Why was Jonah Hill the perfect actor to play Donnie Azoff?
A: I met Jonah Hill very early on, I have known him for years but he came to me and said, ‘look I understand what these people are, I have seen them- I know people that are motivated by greed like this’. He understood that we were portraying something in our society that’s very wrong through these characters and he said ‘there’s no one else that can put this guy up on screen like I can, I’m the man for this job’.
He soon met Martin (Scorsese) right after, I called Martin Scorsese up and said this guy might be the perfect person for this role. What he bought to the set every day was pretty astonishing; he’s one of the great improvisational actors I have ever got to work with and he changed the course of not only every scene, but the entire shape of this movie. We were very lucky to have him.
Q: Tell us about the humour in the film.
A: Martin Scorsese (Director) said very early on, look the subject matter we are dealing with is a very serious one but I want to make this a satire, I want to make this a dark comedy. What we are talking about is not funny, but let’s bring people on this journey with you guys, let’s not see the wake of your destruction, let’s see how intoxicating this type of lifestyle can be for people; let’s show the enjoyment of that too- let’s show how much fun these people were having and see why people were tempted to go in this direction. It was really the approach of humour with this film that made it what it is. I don’t think people would want to see people taking advantage of that many individuals, without understanding their mind-set and that was done with humour.
Q: Which scene was the most fun to film?
A: Everyday was a lot of fun- I have to say I have never heard Martin Scorsese (Director) laugh as much as he did making this movie. He was having a lot of fun because there were no rules- we were doing a movie that was almost like the fall of the Roman Empire and so anything was possible. All of the actors bought their A-game and improvised every single day and made the most of this opportunity.
Q: What will the audience most enjoy about this film?
A: I hope they are entertained, and ultimately I hope they see what we put into this movie, that we tried to do something different. We really tried to push the boundaries every single day, and we did not try to apologise for who these people were. If the audience can reflect a little bit on that, and equate it to what’s going on in the world today, because I can definitely say that I see the attitude that these people have in this movie as being in direct correlation with everything that’s wrong in the world today – it’s this type of attitude that’s destroying everything.
The Wolf of Wall Street is released on Blu-ray and DVD from 19 May 2014. To celebrate the release of this amoral tale, we put the moral compass of the British public to the test this week, with a hidden camera experiment, aiming to determine whether or not the average Londoner would pocket £1000 found on the streets of the city. These are the results...