Toronto: Fisher Stevens on Leonardo DiCaprio's Links to Malaysian Money Scandal: "Leo Did Nothing Wrong"

Before the Flood - Still 1 - H - 2016
Courtesy of TIFF

The director came to the star's defense while discussing their upcoming climate change doc 'Before the Flood.'

Fisher Stevens, director of Before the Flood, a documentary chronicling Leonardo DiCaprio's campaign to combat global climate change, has defended the Hollywood star and his foundation from accusations of ties to an embezzlement scandal in Malaysia.

"The guy's trying to do good. Okay, so he had an unsavory character in there who donated some money. What did he [DiCaprio] know? Leo did nothing wrong," Stevens told The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday while in Toronto to promote the world premiere of his film.

His staunch defense came as DiCaprio became linked in press reports that roughly $3 billion was siphoned from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund called 1MDB. The Department of Justice has filed an asset seizure complaint that alleges some of the money siphoned out of the fund was used to finance DiCaprio's 2013 release The Wolf of Wall Street.

Added Fisher: "He's been trying to do something in this space, and he had some guy give him money. It wasn't his fault."

The Revenant star attended the Toronto festival this weekend alongside Stevens to promote Before the Flood, which was executive produced by Martin Scorsese. Stevens said he deliberately used DiCaprio as his film's narrative focus as the Hollywood actor/activist travels to 20 countries to highlight climate-change disasters like the toxic tar sands of Alberta and the depleted forests of Indonesia.

"To make a film a film, you need to have a leading man, a character ... otherwise, you're not connected to the material," said the director. Before the Flood will have a limited theatrical release on Oct. 21 before a global premiere on the National Geographic Channel in 171 countries on Oct. 30, just before the U.S. election in November.

Stevens is eager to get his documentary out to the world because the current climate change debate has been overshadowed by U.S. presidential contender Donald Trump's denials on the subject.

"It's a horrifying thing that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee," the director said. "He's terrifying for so many reasons, but climate change is one of them."

Stevens also wants the American electorate to know many of its politicians are beholden to Big Oil. "They [politicians] aren't really climate deniers. They're on the payroll," he added.