'Wolf of Wall Street' Screenwriter, Producers Talk Truth Behind Movie's Debauchery
The Wolf of Wall Street contains so much sex, drugs and debauchery that the movie almost earned an NC-17 rating. But all the risque content doesn't bother Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland of Red Granite Pictures, who financed the Paramount-distributed title.
"It's authentic; it's not shock value. It's how these guys lived," McFarland told The Hollywood Reporter at Wolf of Wall Street's U.S. premiere in New York on Tuesday night. "We wanted to portray it the way they lived."
Aziz concurred, adding: "We were pushing the envelope on the movie, but to do anything less than that would do a disservice to the story. We all went for it, and I guess it's kind of out of the studio's comfort zone, but [Martin Scorsese] and [Leonardo DiCaprio] were on board with that vision of pushing the envelope as far as possible, but again not for its own sake, but to be true to the story."
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DiCaprio, who was also a producer, struggled to find financing for his passion project until Red Granite boarded the title in 2010. When asked what made them commit to the $100 million film, McFarland and Aziz said it was all about the story, the script and the combination of DiCaprio and Scorsese (who've worked on four other films together).
"I think we were very, very big believers in the script and the material, and the prospect of teaming up Leo and Marty was a very big attraction for us," Aziz told THR. "But also, it's a very timeless story that I think deserves to be told."
McFarland added: "We love larger than life stories. We like edgy content. We love studio-appetite product, and this just ticked so many boxes."
Producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff said working with Red Granite gave them a lot of freedom, adding that she thinks there will be a lot more instances of producers going outside the studio system to finance movies.
"They just came on and said, 'We believe in this project; we believe in what Marty and Leo want to do. We're behind you 100 percent, go with God, we're here, whatever you need -- within reason,' " she told THR.
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Tillinger Koskoff also praised DiCaprio's work as a producer on the project.
"Not only was he working his ass off every day to give the performance that he gave, but any time I had an issue or a need, he was right there," she said. "Fantastic producer -- so smart creatively and, you know, he's production-savvy. He was a great help to me on the production side of things."
DiCaprio, Scorsese and Jonah Hill didn't stop to talk to THR on the red carpet before the screening. But Matthew McConaughey, who has a small but significant role in the film, told THR that although he was preparing for his role in Dallas Buyers Club when he filmed his part in Wolf, the experience was more of a help than a hindrance.
"It's always a little fearful, because you go, 'Wait, I'm preparing for something else'…but then once you do it, you find it was good because it was loosening my instrument," McConaughey said. "It was a freeing character…so it loosened my instrument to hop into something like this for four days, work with Scorsese and Leonardo, work with people who are pros and know what they're doing, to hop in and hit it and hop back out and head on my journey…scary at the beginning because I didn't want to interrupt, but overall it helped."
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Friday Night Lights alum Kyle Chandler, who plays one of the FBI agents going after DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort, raved about being directed by Scorsese.
"He says one little word and you go, 'Wow, OK, now I get it.' It's just fantastic," Chandler said. "I walked away feeling like I had met the gentleman who literally is the best in this business, and after seeing the film, it was justified that I was right."
Indeed, working with the legendary director made the cast unconcerned about the fate of their film when its release was pushed back from its original calendar date of Nov. 15 and fans wondered whether the movie would be released this year.
Tillinger Koskoff, Chandler and P.J. Byrne, who plays one of Belfort's colleagues, said they weren't worried about the delay.
"When Martin Scorsese has your movie, you're like, 'We're going to be OK; we're going to be fine,' " Byrne told THR.
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Byrne, who has a finance degree and said he was "an eighth of a second away from" working on Wall Street before he got his master's in acting, joked that to prepare for his role, he practiced some of the scandalous things his character does.
"I made love to working women. I wore candy underwear. I did a lot of quaaludes. I shaved a girl's head," he said.
Screenwriter Terence Winter also has a real connection to Wall Street -- he worked for Merrill Lynch in the '80s. But he quickly noted that was a much more conservative firm than Belfort's enterprise: "I saw a marching band on the trading floor at Merrill Lynch, but not a naked marching band."
Indeed, Winter said that anything he incorporated was probably tamer than what was in Belfort's memoir, which served as the basis for the screenplay.
"I don't know that I could have made up half the stuff in the book and believed it. It was all right there for me," he said.
Winter noted that after he finished reading the book, he didn't believe it was all true. But he spoke to the FBI agent who arrested Belfort and had followed him for 10 years, who confirmed it was all true.
Still, Winter said the part of the book he found the most shocking was that Belfort was alive at the end of it.
"I couldn't believe that anybody could be this guy and live to tell about it," he said.