Leonardo DiCaprio Defends ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Amid Controversy

Published 1 year ago by

Wolf of Wall Street Leonardo DiCaprio Defends Wolf of Wall Street Amid Controversy

The work of Martin Scorsese isn’t exactly synonymous with virtue, as his films tend to center on morally questionable figures like mobsters and corrupt cops. So moviegoers shouldn’t have been too surprised when his latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street, narrowly avoided an NC-17 rating for its raw depiction of sexuality.

The film – which stars Leonardo DiCaprio in his fifth collaboration with Scorsese – chronicles the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) and serves as a portrait of white-collar crime and hedonism in the 1990s. Upon its release, Scorsese’s film has been met with a mixed reaction (read our review), with some critics going so far as accusing the film of glorifying the excess it depicts.

Now, in an interview with HitFix, DiCaprio himself has commented on the controversy surrounding The Wolf of Wall Street. Here’s what he had to say:

“I think anyone who thinks [that the film glorifies excess] missed the boat entirely. I grew up in a generation of watching [Scorsese]’s movies and when you come from a standpoint of being someone who is so influenced by him and De Niro’s work, to hear specific reactions they had to films that, now, as the years roll by — we’re all desensitized to those things, you know what I’m saying? To hear that there were any type of reactions that weren’t — I’m not saying people should particularly praise this film for that reason, but I think it takes a while to permeate into the culture a little bit.

“When I see his movies now, it’s a shock to me that there was ever any kind of — I mean I listened to stories of ‘The Last Temptation of Christ.’ I listened to stories of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ and even ‘Mean Streets,’ but to me they’re a classic part of American cinema history that have influenced so many other filmmakers and so many other genres. It’s insane.”

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio Defends Wolf of Wall Street Amid Controversy

The actor – who will likely receive a fourth Academy Award nomination for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street – certainly has a point regarding how time can affect the way films are perceived. Some releases fail to connect with audiences or elicit a negative response, only to be revisited as modern classics years down the line. After all, films like Blade Runner and The Shining struggled upon their initial runs (the latter was even nominated for a pair of Razzies), and both are now considered influential pieces of cinema history and masterful examples of filmmaking.

DiCaprio went on to say that the divisive reaction to The Wolf of Wall Street is, at least in part, due to Scorsese’s specific approach to the material.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a film, in a way, that is kind of bold and is taking a chance like that, and I think that anyone that thinks this is a celebration of Wall Street and this sort of hedonism — yes, the unique thing about Marty is that he doesn’t judge his characters. And that was something that you don’t quite understand while you’re making the movie, but he allows the freedom of this almost hypnotic, drug-infused, wild ride that these characters go on. And he allows you, as an audience — guilty or not — to enjoy in that ride without judging who these people are.

“Because ultimately, he keeps saying this: ‘Who am I to judge anybody?’ I mean ultimately I think if anyone watches this movie, at the end of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ they’re going to see that we’re not at all condoning this behavior. In fact we’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about. Because, to me, this attitude of what these characters represent in this film are ultimately everything that’s wrong with the world we live in.”

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio Defends Wolf of Wall Street Amid Controversy

Regardless of what message audiences are taking away from The Wolf of Wall Street, the film is far from the first to heavily feature a character fueled by greed, and likewise, DiCaprio’s Belfort is only the latest in a long line of Scorsese protagonists to embody the director’s fascination with the dark side of human nature. Furthermore, the film is proving to be yet another box office winner for the unstoppable duo of Scorsese and DiCaprio.

Do you think The Wolf of Wall Street promotes the lifestyle it features so prominently, or is the film, as DiCaprio says, intended to be viewed as a more satirical social commentary? Sound off in the comments section below.


The Wolf of Wall Street is now in theaters.

Source: HitFix

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @crookedtable
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Ultimately the “controversy” is irrelevant in the long run, and as the years go by I have no doubt in my mind that WOWS will be considered another Scorsese classic film like Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, just as Leo mentioned.

      • 7 hours later… how has this not been removed?

  2. Sounds like a sales pitch to me. Pass.

  3. I’m totally with DiCaprio on this one; saying this movie glorifies Belfort’s antics is like saying Fight Club is about fighting or Black Swan is about ballet. This movie is much more Lord of the Flies than anything else… It chronicles what happens when “the boys” get far too much influence and power and think the rules of society don’t apply to them. They go positively tribal.

    Anyway, I thought it was a great film and DiCaprio/Robbie killed it.

  4. Take a look at a lot of these “critics” that so many moviegoers listen to and read about. Think about how much money they’re making simply to watch movies and say what they thought about them. I think they’re awfully sensitive to a film like this because it hits so close to home in terms of their own lifestyle. This movie ultimately shows the ugly side of the greed that is running rampant in our culture and killing our society. Every day the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. And the rich don’t want to hear about it. They don’t want to acknowledge it. They don’t want to look in the mirror and realize that they are our country’s worst enemy. And I think a big-budget film that so bluntly portrays that fact will undoubtedly be met harshly by them.

  5. +1

  6. I love Scorsese, & I love most of leo’s movies, but let’s be honest;
    after the first hour / act, it stops being a great / funny movie and turns into an infomercial / greatest hits album
    glorifying debauchery & excess. I found the 2nd and 3rd acts repulsive.
    of course it glorifies excess; read the “source material” they used to write the screenplay.
    technically its still a great movie, but i kind of hated it after the first hour.
    i suspect thats what the director was going for, but it’s a very fine line so….

    I kind of agree with “thatmovieguy”.
    this is either a sales pitch, or a thinly disguised “please nominate me for best actor” plea.

    • You just contradicted yourself. “In fact we’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about. Because, to me, this attitude of what these characters represent in this film are ultimately everything that’s wrong with the world we live in.” Leo hates the Oscars. Why would he have aplea to be nominated? Notice how he is never at the Oscars………..

    • @tacchan
      Good Link!
      Interesting Read!

  7. This movie was a truly 10 / 10 !

    I hope it get a nomination for best picture, and Leo wins an oscar

  8. DiCaprio’ s comments show what is wrong with a lot of movies and Hollywood in general. Movies tend to desensitize us to morally bad things. And DiCaprio praises this. The guy is a good actor but he, like most rich actors, cannot identify with the common man. I’ll pass on this.

    • Your loss. When watching the movie, I truly did not envy the main character by mid-way through the film. It has a certain inherent lesson to it, proving that money doesn’t buy everything and greed will ultimately be your hubristic downfall if you let it get ahold of you.

    • You are so right, It’s Sad but true.

  9. Come on! This is the same type of backlash that “A Clockwork Orange” took. Are we still doing this?!

  10. looking forward to this, and being a fan of Decaprio, and Island of Dr Moreau by H.G Wells i am very interested in seeing what he does with that. Also what is going on with Prometheus 2 Paradise?

  11. it’s like people are suprised when we look at ourselves as humans and human tendencies…Scorsese opens the door with the skeletons in it, people start to feel uncomfortable when you get your cards pulled

  12. I liked WOWS a lot, and I think it’s message (that if you expand your money situation you need to be mature and responsible enough to handle the side effects of being rich–a spotlight is put on you, FBI, CIA–and that if you let greed and your ego run your life you will not have any friends or support remaining.

    The reason I think it can be not well received, is that pretty much every character had a negative story arc (becoming more villainous), so there’s not really any satisfying “America, truth, and justice was preserved” sense of accomplishment, even though that’s exactly what the movie depicts.

  13. The sex scenes were a little much, if I wanted to see so much sex I would have watched a porno. The movie was wayyy too long and I think if they cut the all the sex and coke snorting scenes it would have been way better. They just seemed pointless, it wasn’t really shocking to me it just got old after a while. I have seen four movies in the past couple weeks and I think American Hustle takes the cake. That was a great all around film.

    • The prolonged sex and drugs debauchery is the entire point of the film.

      **************************SPOILERS FOR Wolf of Wall Street FOLLOW **********************

      Anyone who claims this movie glorifies Belfort is using selective viewing, IMHO.

      The ending act that @RandomInternetGuy criticizes – who could envy or cheer for Belfort and Jonah Hill’s character slobbering and crawling over one another like slugs, nearly retarded and/or dying on drug in front of an infant girl? Or that disturbing final sex scene of Belfor humping on his disgusted wife like a pathetic animal? Or then Belfort freaking out and punching his wife in the stomach and kidnapping his daughter and traumatizing her while nearly crashing his car?

      That was such off-putting and disgusting stuff, and the only way I can see people not understanding the commentary there is if they are the same type of people who watch ‘Scarface’ and/or ‘Goodfellas’ and choose to view the happy upswing portions over the disgrace and eventual downfall of the bad guys.

      But a film or filmmaker are not responsible for those who CHOOSE to see things in a way contrary to how a film presents them. WoWs showed that its high-living characters were amoral degenerates that we still allow to put our entire economic system at risk.

      You probably won’t get a more blunt and clear warning about it unless you peer into the back room of a Wall Street firm Friday around Happy Hour time…

      • That’ll probably be a reason it might not be so well received in America because US test audiences and critics are notorious for either forcing endings to change to have a happy conclusion (Army Of Darkness being a prime example) or punishing a movie due to a lack of happy ending.

        I always thought it was high time we had more movies that didn’t wrap things up with a nice conclusion, which is why I loved Layer Cake so much for the ending in particular and also why I adore the real ending to Army Of Darkness where Ash wakes up in the future.

        • Sorry, my browser was screwing up then, the above comment was meant to be posted further up.

      • @Kofi

        And therein lies the problem.

        Movies like this are meant to show you into that world, give you a glimpse of the power and good things people would love to do with that amount of money and then shows how people slowly unravel into a steep descent of debauchery. They get in over their heads, lost in a whirlpool of bad decision after bad decision and can’t get themselves out because to give up the lifestyle and clean themselves up would be to go back to a life without money and once you’re used to having a lot of money, you’ll do anything to keep it.

        Movies like this, like Wall Street and like Goodfellas show that while it may seem like fun to do certain things depicted early on during the movie, at some point, it will inevitably go wrong.

        Like you said, it serves as a warning and if people complain about the contents of the film then they’ll never understand the point of movies like this. It doesn’t glorify the lifestyle, it just highlights the many negatives that outweigh the few positives of being in that position.

  14. Eyes Wide Shut?

  15. Wow, does there have to be a controversy about everything, now a days? Isn’t that why we go to movies? To get away from normal life for a few hours and be taken to another place. Whether that place be a world with superheroes, hobbits, fast cars the defy gravity or Wall Street guys that make tons of money. It’s still fiction, even if it is based on a true story. We’ve gotten to a point where everyone is offended by everything. Honestly I don’t care if the movie glorifies excess. Isn’t that the same thing the movie Wall Street did in the 80s? Sometimes, I want my movies to glorify excess, violence and inappropriate behavior. Because those are the things I don’t get to do in real life. I don’t always want a movie to be about real life, I’m already living that. Just take me away for a couple hours, that’s all I ask.

    The fact of the matter is that someone or some group is always going to be offended by something, so why worry about. Can’t make everyone happy, some people just don’t get it.

  16. The film is a raw picture of a truly hedonistic life. What was shocking to me was the fact that while I think I “know” what is going on across the socio-economic spectrum, I clearly do not. Today someone on twitter quoted Mr. Belfort. This signifies that a certain portion of the population will see this as something to emulate. That’s is just human nature (sadly). The movie reflects the culture. It is up to us how we think about that reflection.

    • I guess it depends on the context of the quote being used.

      I quote Clarence Boddicker from Robocop pretty regularly and think he’s an amazing movie character but at the same time, I’d never wish to emulate him, no matter how charismatic he is.

      I’ve quoted Tony Montana before too but actually feared for those who think he’s a role model. Same with The Joker too (from both Batman movies he’s appeared in).

  17. I havent seen a movie this good since Goodfellas I think thats why I enjoyed it so much , go watch it people !

  18. I agree with DiCaprio on this… Indeed the movie is very explicit about sex and drugs but at the end is a character study of the human condition. All people experienced greed and have desires… but in the movie you see that you will not have impunity and you will pay the consecuences of the life in excess. I love the movie for that and because is very funny.

    • It’s rather the opposite. The protagonist does not face any real consequences. He only gets a few years of jail time and drug abuse magically doesn’t kill anyone.

  19. I have to admit, the scene where the out dated quaaludes kick in at the country club WAS a classic comedic scene, but WOW is not a great film.

    This film did a poor job of educating the public about the dangers of investing in penny stocks or how men like Belfort manipulates penny stock prices. Sure it glossed over ‘pink sheets,’but the theme of WOW was hedonism. Oddly, off exchange securities (the OTC Bureau Board), spamming and the National Quotation Bureau were never mentioned in the film. There was real little meat in this film, Scorsese ‘dumbed down’ the social issue (Belfort’s investors had no one to sell their inflated shares to in the market) and made a low brow comedy for mass consumption.

    Yes WOW was entertaining , but the average film goer could not fully explain the crimes Belfort commited or understand why he went to prison after watching the film.

  20. Lol is that hard to get the point of this movie? Good lord “movie critics”

  21. This far into the evolution of the cinematic form, I shouldn’t have to step forward to spell things out in this manner but a random sampling of the critical and public reaction to a recent feature film release reveals that yet again, some of us have been flummoxed by a genius that extends too beyond our collective scope to grasp. This concerns the reception of an artfully antagonistic work of allegorical avarice and the once absent chapter in Martin Scorsese’s vast, historical, American criminal chronology which begins in the late 1840’s with Gangs Of New York, continues through the 1920’s with Boardwalk Empire, and up until now had been annotated for expansion from the late 1980’s to mid-1990’s somewhere between Henry Hill ordering egg noodles and ketchup and Sam “Ace” Rothstein bemoaning the pyramids obstructing his pining view of a paradise lost. The picture in question is entitled The Wolf Of Wall Street and only if you have seen it should you feel free to pass go as I do not wish the ensuing tirade to taint anyone’s initial reaction or reading of what I consider a visual masterwork.

  22. The Wolf Of Wall Street is not an indictment of Jordan Belfort or our financial crisis but of us, and this, I contend, is what turns our protective and critical instincts against it. The film does not moralize and due to its refusal to judge its subject, many reviewers have expressed feeling cheated. Now I was not around for the initial critical reception of Raging Bull, but archival notices indicating any such qualms with that masterpiece’s resistance to deny Jake LaMotta his humanity are either fewer and father between or have since been shamed into retraction. It is only when Scorsese’s fun house mirror reflects our own impotence as the impetus propelling us to flail in the wake of bullshitters who project boatloads of self-confidence that the lap-dogs begin paddling back toward their laptops to type out an “SOS”. “How dare a filmmaker be so irresponsible as to give us a front row seat to this capitalistic gang-**** but fail to execute the proper sentence on its perpetrators so we can leave the

  23. The movie was an intense bore!

    Even the heavy obscenity couldnt keep everyone from yawning.

    If Jordon had fooled a whole bunch o’ ppl and also got a whole bunch o’ ppl to fool others ..I can imagine how charismatic he would have been..

    Er..??? guess i was too busy sleeping to notice any charisma

  24. This film should have benn rated XXX. I had a lot of admiration for Martin and Leonardo until that film came out. My wife and I walked out of the theater after 10 minutes. I don’t think we will want to see another movie associated with either one of them again. Too bad that they stepped way over the line this time.