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One major sequence from The Wolf of Wall Street almost didn’t make it into the three-hour hit drama.
Screenwriter Terence Winter told The Hollywood Reporter that director Martin Scorsese had to fight to be able to shoot one section of the darkly comedic Oscar-nominated script, which chronicled the rise and downfall of real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort.
“Because [the script] was so long, you know, the fear was there were going be things that we were gonna have to cut — like the sequence where the boat sinks and they get rescued at sea,” Winter says.. “It was on the chopping block for the longest time because it was so wild and so expensive. To his credit, Marty just kept fighting and said, ‘We have to have that. I have to have that.'”
In the sequence, a desperate Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) orders his yacht captain to ignore a dire weather forecast and sail from Italy to Monaco in an attempt to stop his bank account from being confiscated by federal investigators. The ship goes into a storm and sinks, with Belfort, his wife Naomi (Margot Robbie) and the rest of guests and crew rescued by helicopter.
While Winter didn’t specify who objected to the sequence — the 2013 film was bankrolled by indie company Red Granite and then Paramount Pictures came on board as distributor a couple months after filming got underway — it’s certainly easy to see why the action sea-quence was tempting to omit, as it doesn’t directly impact the film’s plot. Winter says its inclusion was aided by fact that the sinking reportedly actually happened.
Yet there was reportedly plenty of other material that was filmed yet left on the cutting room floor. Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker told IndieWire Wolf of Wall Street was originally a four-hour edit (though Scorsese and studio sources have downplayed its existence). “People loved the four-hour cut,” she said, and noted the director even briefly considered releasing the film in two parts a la Kill Bill. “Well, we thought about it,” she said. “But the film doesn’t work split in half. It has to have a certain arc.”
Audiences are unlikely to ever see the four-hour edit as Scorsese has a pretty firm policy about treating the released version of his film as the final version. “The director’s cut is the film that’s released — unless it’s been taken away from the director by the financiers and the studio,” he told EW. “Sometimes [a director says], “I wish I could go back and put it all back together.” All these things happen … But I do think once the die is cast, you have to go with it and say, ‘That’s the movie I made under those circumstances.'”
Still, we asked Winter if there was any filmed scene that he wishes had made it into the theatrical release, which ended up grossing nearly $400 million worldwide despite its epic run time.
“There was actually a four-hour cut of that movie initially and it was just a lot more insanity — if you can believe there was room for any,” Winter says. “But I was absolutely thrilled that everything got in there. Every possible thing in — including the kitchen sink — is in that movie. I could not have been more happy with it.”
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