Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio Finally Open Up About 'Wolf of Wall Street'
In a candid roundtable with Jonah Hill and writer Terence Winter, the film's major players open up about airplane orgies, scoring quaaludes, Steven Spielberg on set and why DiCaprio was drawn to the real-life story: "It was like a modern-day Caligula."
There are some extraordinary scenes -- especially one when Jonah's and Leo's characters get high on "Lemmon" quaaludes. Jonah, what did you think when you read that?
HILL: Leo and Marty really built that scene as an end of my character's screw-up journey. You guys had the brilliant idea to make taking the Lemmons really to numb Jordan to the information that I screwed up.
At one point in that sequence, Leo is on a pay phone and can't even form words, then has to crawl to his car.
SCORSESE: Leo hurt his back on the telephone when he was talking and fell backwards on a rig that we worked out.
DICAPRIO: It was a few days of crawling around like that. You contort your body and …
SCORSESE: You hurt yourself. What he did was almost like Jacques Tati or Jerry Lewis in that scene. How you gonna do it? You can't just be talking on the phone, because you can't form the words because of the drugs.
Did you have drug experts? I'm assuming you didn't try Lemmon quaaludes?
HILL: I tried as hard as I could to find a quaalude, and I could not find any. (Laughter.) I mean, I'm not like a drug person, but I genuinely would've tried one to see. We had a drug expert. I spoke to a drug expert who …
SCORSESE: She was stoned. No, I'm only kidding. And I also remembered things from years ago. I had my times. I said, "You try to form the word, but it isn't there." The tongue and the mouth, the palate just won't respond.
Did you improvise a lot?
DICAPRIO: I remembered seeing a documentary on King of Comedy and seeing a lot of improvisation having been done. But this, by far in our collaborations, had the most controlled chaos. A lot of the films in the past had a very structured plot. But this wasn't redoing The Catcher in the Rye. This wasn't some Great American Novel that we had to be specific to.
SCORSESE: We did rehearse in a rehearsal hall and read the scenes. And there were some improvisations typed up. It became another monster epic by itself, and I trimmed it way down in editing, and there are only a couple of lines from the improv that remain, actually.
HILL: The first rehearsals were just the three of us. For me, obviously, it was intimidating: This is my favorite director and my favorite actor, and now I was working with them. You have to check that at the door at some point.
What did you do to calm yourself? Take quaaludes?
HILL: (Laughter.) I'm gonna clarify that. I meant that it was before my generation, so I didn't know anyone who had ever taken one.
What kind of an impact does it have on you playing characters like this?
DICAPRIO: You know, when you jump into that world headfirst, as we did, we just became kind of different people on set. You have to stop yourself from being this incredibly arrogant prick.
HILL: Well, I didn't. (Laughter.)
What was hardest to pull off?
DICAPRIO: The speeches. I had been thinking about them for seven years. But I had never had a monologue like that in my life -- I mean, [one] went on for four pages. It was amazing. And there was such a lead-up to it, it was almost like an adrenaline dump. And I immediately got sick. I was supposed to get up there in front of 600 extras and give this giant Braveheart-like speech on greed, and my throat just seized up. I got strep throat.
HILL: I have a great picture of you with all the medicine. He had like 9,000 medicine bottles.
DICAPRIO: Thank God, I got a couple days to rethink all of it and prepare myself, get better.
WINTER: There was a lot of techno-speak about, "What is an IPO?" for example. And in the original drafts of the script, Jordan explains it. And Marty and I talked about it. I said, "This is sort of like science fiction where they talk about sending the rocket into space and you know, the flange has to be blah, blah and the thermometer blah, blah." And all you need to know is: If this thing goes up and explodes, it's bad.