At the “Wolf of Wall Street” premiere last night, the stars on the red carpet were hotter than the investment tips. Considering the movie tells the story of a convicted stock swindler, that was a good thing.
“I’m not going to share what I do,” said Matthew McConaughey of his stock portfolio, as his wife, Camila Alves, stood a few feet away in a tent outside New York’s Ziegfeld Theater before the screening.
“I have someone else do it for me,” said one of his co-stars, Jon Favreau. “I sort of put my money in funds. I don’t try to gamble.”
The film is based on the 2007 memoir of Jordan Belfort, who spent 22 months in jail for money laundering and securities fraud.
In the 1990s, Belfort ran a penny-stock boiler room in Long Island, New York with the preppy-sounding name Stratton Oakmont Inc. He used his ill-won gains from “pump and dump” stock manipulations to fill his and his friends’ lives with drugs, prostitutes and naked marching bands.
The Securities and Exchange Commission shut down the firm in 1998, and in 2003, Belfort was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail (he got out early). He now works as a motivational speaker to repay $110.4 million to a victim-compensation fund, which the government says must receive half of his income.
On the red carpet, Belfort greeted Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor who plays him, and Martin Scorsese, the film’s director. “It’s humbling,” Belfort said.
He also shared space with race-car driver Jeff Gordon; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; and Nelson Peltz, chief executive officer of Trian Fund Management LP, who attended with his daughter Nicola, an actress. She’ll next be seen in the film “Affluenza.”
The after-party offered meatballs rather than cocaine to guests at the Roseland Ballroom. Attendees included model Kate Upton, actor Joe Pesci and Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, which will release the film on Christmas Day. Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.
As research for their parts, Jonah Hill and DiCaprio visited Bank of America Corp.’s trading floor, where Hill said he learned “quite a lot.”
“I got a lot of things from some people who were trying to sugar-coat it,” McConaughey, who played a broker, said of his own research. “You could see what they were kind of fibbing about. I made up a rap out of all that.”
Cast member Jake Hoffman was one of the few who didn’t bone up on Wall Street. “I played Steve Madden, so while everyone else was talking about stocks, I was talking about women’s shoes,” Hoffman said.
Rob Reiner also played a role in the movie that he said was not about the “everyday trading of Wall Street.”
“I was the voice of reason -- I’m supposed to rein in the excess Jordan Belfort exhibits, to no avail. It’s like a parent watching their child run into the street with oncoming traffic and you feel helpless to stop him before he gets hit by a car.”
Terence Winter, the writer of the film, worked on the Merrill Lynch & Co. trading floor the day of the 1987 market crash. He long ago moved past playing the stock market.
“I just don’t have the stomach for it,” Winter said. “I have two little kids, and I’d really rather sleep at night and know that I have money in a certain place and it will probably be there tomorrow.”
Among the cast members interviewed, the one who seemed to be savviest about the securities world was P.J. Byrne, who plays one of Belfort’s childhood buddies. He was a finance and theater major in college, and worked on Wall Street before returning to graduate school.
“I invest 14 or 15 percent of my salary in the stock market,” he said. “And I just got Twitter at $33.” (The stock closed yesterday above $56.) He doesn’t own any Bitcoins. “No, God, I wish I had it. One day.”
Byrne said the actions depicted in the film are no model for behavior on Wall Street. “Those are people that left ethics and morals at the door,” he said. “Bring your ethics and morals with you when you show up to work every day.”
“I would never tell anyone to stay away from the market,” said Joey McFarland, a producer on the film, who still prefers to put his money in property and “private endeavors.”
“We’re all familiar with getting rich on Wall Street, but what the people are like is what we’ve tried to capture,” he said. “The debauchery, the outlandish, irresponsible, non-disciplined behavior that came along with it.”