The Wolf of Wall Street (2013 film)

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The Wolf of Wall Street
A man in a suit with a big smile on his face. Behind him a chaotic office scene.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Produced by
Screenplay byTerence Winter
Based onThe Wolf of Wall Street 
by Jordan Belfort
StarringLeonardo DiCaprio
CinematographyRodrigo Prieto
Editing byThelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byParamount Pictures (North America/Japan)
Universal Pictures (select Europe countries)[1]
Release dates
  • December 17, 2013 (2013-12-17) (New York City premiere)
  • December 25, 2013 (2013-12-25) (United States)
Running time179 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$100 million[3][4]
Box office$226,549,953[4]
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The Wolf of Wall Street
A man in a suit with a big smile on his face. Behind him a chaotic office scene.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Produced by
Screenplay byTerence Winter
Based onThe Wolf of Wall Street 
by Jordan Belfort
StarringLeonardo DiCaprio
CinematographyRodrigo Prieto
Editing byThelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byParamount Pictures (North America/Japan)
Universal Pictures (select Europe countries)[1]
Release dates
  • December 17, 2013 (2013-12-17) (New York City premiere)
  • December 25, 2013 (2013-12-25) (United States)
Running time179 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$100 million[3][4]
Box office$226,549,953[4]

The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort's memoir of the same name. It was released on December 25, 2013. The screenplay was written by Terence Winter, and the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, a New York stockbroker who runs a firm that engages in securities fraud and corruption on Wall Street in the 1990s.

The film also features Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey and Jean Dujardin. It is the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio, and the second between Scorsese and Winter following Boardwalk Empire.

The film received positive reviews from critics, but was also controversial for its moral ambiguity, presence of drugs, and use of animals.[5][6][7] The film is also nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It is historically significant as the first major film to be distributed entirely digitally.[8] It is also noted for having the most instances of the word "fuck" in a narrative film, with 569 uses of the word.[9][10][11]


In 1987, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a stockbroker job at an established Wall Street firm. His boss (Matthew McConaughey) advises him to adopt a lifestyle of casual sex and cocaine to succeed. Barely into the job, the firm fails after Black Monday.

Unemployed in a poor job market for stockbrokers, Jordan's wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti) encourages him to take a job with a Long Island boiler room dealing in penny stocks. His aggressive pitching style, combined with the higher commission rate of penny stocks, soon earns him a small fortune. He befriends Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a salesman living in the same apartment complex and they decide to go into business together. To facilitate this, his accountant parents are recruited as well as several of Jordan's friends, some of them experienced marijuana dealers. Stratton Oakmont is created. Despite the respectable name, it is essentially a pump and dump scam. An article in Forbes dubs Jordan the "Wolf of Wall Street", and soon hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company.

A decadent lifestyle of lavish parties, sex and drugs follow. Jordan regularly uses prostitutes and becomes addicted to cocaine and Quaaludes. FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins investigating Stratton Oakmont. When Jordan meets Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) at one of his parties, he begins an affair with her, resulting in his divorce. Jordan marries Naomi and a few months later they have a daughter, Skylar. The FBI investigation is joined by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jordan instantly makes US$22 million on his securing the IPO of Steve Madden Ltd. To hide his money, Jordan opens a Swiss bank account with the corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) in the name of Naomi's aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley). He uses friends with European passports to smuggle cash to Switzerland. When Donnie gets into a public fight with Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), who is one of their money couriers, and Brad is arrested, their scheme is nearly exposed.

Donnie offers Jordan a powerful brand of Quaaludes, hoping to ease the sting of the bad news. The pills are old and seem to have lost their potency, so they take huge doses to compensate. Jordan then receives a call from Bo Dietl, his private investigator, who insists Jordan call him back from a payphone. Jordan drives to a country club to phone Bo, who warns Jordan of Brad's arrest and that his house phone had been wiretapped. At this point, the Quaaludes finally kick in with overwhelming effect. Severely debilitated, Jordan drives back home to prevent Donnie from using his phone. When Jordan arrives home Donnie (who is also high) is on the phone with Saurel. Jordan fights Donnie to make him get off the phone and tells him he found out what happened between him and Brad. Donnie starts choking on ham and nearly suffocates. Jordan snorts cocaine to counteract the effect of the Quaaludes in order to help save Donnie's life.

With the shadow of law enforcement hanging over them, Jordan's father Max (Rob Reiner) attempts to convince his son to step down from Stratton Oakmont and escape the large amount of legal penalties. However, during his leaving party at the office, Jordan relents.

Jordan, Donnie and their wives on a yacht trip to Italy learn that Emma has died of a heart attack. Over his grieving wife's objections, Jordan decides to sail to Monaco so they can drive to Switzerland without getting their passports stamped at the border and settle the bank account, but a violent storm capsizes their yacht. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed by a seagull flying into the engine, exploding and killing three people. Witnessing this, Jordan considers this a sign from God and decides to sober up.

Two years later, Denham arrests Jordan during the filming of an infomercial. Saurel, arrested in Florida over an unrelated charge, has told the FBI everything. Since the evidence against him is overwhelming, Jordan agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Jordan is optimistic about his sentencing but after one last night of sex, Naomi tells Jordan she will divorce him and wants full custody of their children. Jordan throws a violent tantrum, gets high, and ends up crashing his car in his driveway during an attempt to abscond with their daughter.

The next morning, Jordan wears a wire to work. Jordan silently slips Donnie a note warning him about the wire. The note finds its way to Agent Denham, who arrests Jordan for breaching his cooperation deal. The FBI raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont.

Despite this one breach, Jordan receives a much reduced sentence for his testimony and is sentenced to 36 months in a minimum security prison. After his release, Jordan makes a living hosting seminars on sales technique.




In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio/Warner Bros. won a bidding war against Brad Pitt/Paramount Pictures for the rights to Jordan Belfort's memoir The Wolf of Wall Street, and Martin Scorsese was considering to direct the film.[26][27] During pre-production, Scorsese worked on the film's script prior to working on Shutter Island. He describes having "wasted five months of [his] life" without getting a greenlight on production dates by the studio Warner Bros.[28] Jordan Belfort made $1 million on the movie rights.[29]

In 2010, Warner Bros. had offered Ridley Scott to direct the film, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the male lead.[30] However, Warner Bros. eventually dumped the project.[31]

In 2012, a green light was given by the independent company Red Granite Pictures. Scorsese came back on board knowing there were no limits to the content he would produce; as it stands, the film has an R rating.[32] Red Granite Pictures also asked Paramount Pictures to distribute the film[33]; Paramount Pictures agreed to distribute the film in North America and Japan, but it passed on the rest of the international market.[34]

In the film, most of the real-life characters' names originally in Belfort's memoir have been changed. Donnie Azoff is based on Danny Porush; the FBI agent known as Patrick Denham is the stand-in for real-life Gregory Coleman;[35] and lawyer Manny Riskin is based on Ira Lee Sorkin.[36] Belfort's first wife, Denise Lombardo, is re-named Teresa Petrillo, while second wife Nadine Caridi became on-screen Naomi Lapaglia. In contrast, Mark Hanna's name remains the same as the LF Rothschild stockbroker who, like Belfort, was convicted of fraud and served time in prison.[37][38]

In January 2014 Jonah Hill revealed in an interview that he only made $60,000 (the lowest possible Screen Actors Guild rate for his amount of work) on the film while his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio who also produced, took home $10 million. Hill was determined to work with Scorcese, and wanted to play Donnie Azoff that he was willing to do what it took to get the part.[39][40][41][42]


Filming began on August 8, 2012 in New York.[43] Jonah Hill announced that his first day of shooting was September 4, 2012.[44] Filming also took place in Closter, New Jersey[45] and Harrison, New York. In January 2013, additional scenes were shot at a set built in an abandoned office building in Ardsley, New York. Scenes at the beach house was filmed in Sands Point, New York.[46]

Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker stated that the film would be shot digitally instead of on film.[47] Scorsese, who had been a proponent of shooting on film, decided to shoot Hugo digitally because it was being photographed in 3D; however, The Wolf of Wall Street was originally planned to be shot digitally despite being filmed in 2D.[48] Schoonmaker expressed her disappointment with the decision, saying, "It would appear that we've lost the battle. I think Marty just feels it's unfortunately over, and there's been no bigger champion of film than him."[47] After extensive comparison tests during pre-production, eventually the majority was shot on film while scenes that used green screen effects or low light were shot with the Arri Alexa.[48] The film contains 400-450 VFX shots.[49]

Use of animals[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street uses animals including a chimpanzee, a lion, a fish, and dogs.[50] The chimpanzee and the lion were provided by the Big Cat Habitat wildlife sanctuary in Sarasota County, Florida. The four-year-old chimpanzee, Chance, spent time with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and learned to roller skate over the course of three weeks. The sanctuary also provided a lion named Handsome because the film's trading company used a lion for its symbol.[51] Danny Porush, who was Jordan Belfort's partner, denied there being any animals in the office.[52]

In December 2013, prior to the film's premiere, the organization Friends of Animals criticized the use of the chimpanzee and organized a boycott of the film. Variety reported, "Friends of Animals thinks the chimp... suffered irreversible psychological damage after being forced to act."[7] The Guardian said, "Criticism of The Wolf of Wall Street's use of a chimpanzee arrives as Hollywood comes under ever-increasing scrutiny for its employment of animals on screen," referring to a November 2013 report in The Hollywood Reporter that was critical of the American Humane Association's treatment of animals in films.[52] PETA also launched a campaign to highlight mistreatment of ape actors and to petition for DiCaprio not to work with great apes.[53]


Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese in Paris at the film's French premiere, December 2013.

The Wolf of Wall Street was released on December 25, 2013. It was previously slated to be released on November 15, 2013, but the date was pushed back after film cuts were desired in order to reduce the run time.[54] On October 22, 2013, it was reported that it was set for a Christmas 2013 release.[55] Paramount officially confirmed the Christmas Day 2013 release date on October 29, 2013 with a running time of 165 minutes.[27][56] On November 25, 2013, the length was announced to be 179 minutes.[2] It was officially rated R for "sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence".[25] Scorsese had to edit sexual content and nudity to avoid an NC-17 rating.[57] By different counts, the film contains between 506 and 569 uses of the word "fuck",[10][9] and sets the record for the most uses of the word in a mainstream non-documentary film.[58][59][60]

The film is banned in Malaysia, Nepal and Kenya because of its scenes depicting sex, drugs and excessive use of swear words, and additional scenes have been cut in the versions playing in India. In Singapore, the film has been relegated to only a handful of theaters because of its ultra-restrictive rating.[61][62]

The film marks a change in film history when Paramount became the first major studio to distribute movies to theaters in digital format eliminating 35mm film entirely. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was the last Paramount production to include a 35mm film version, while The Wolf of Wall Street was the first major movie distributed entirely digitally.[8][63]


The film's first theatrical trailer was released on June 16, 2013 and features the song "Black Skinhead" by Kanye West.[25] A new trailer was released on October 29, 2013.[64] The songs featured in the second trailer are "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker" by 7Horse and "Hang You from the Heavens" by The Dead Weather.[25]

Critical response[edit]

The Wolf of Wall Street has received positive reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 77% approval rating, with an average score of 7.7/10, based on reviews from 226 critics. The site's consensus states: "Funny, self-referential, and irreverent to a fault, The Wolf of Wall Street finds Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio at their most infectiously dynamic".[65] The film has a score of 75/100 on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews", based on 47 critics.[66]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine named The Wolf of Wall Street as the third best film of 2013, behind 12 Years a Slave and Gravity at numbers one and two. The movie was chosen as one of the top ten films of the year by the American Film Institute.[67]

Dana Stevens, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, wrote that the movie did not work for her and was not a factor for them in any award category.[citation needed] According to Marshall Fine of The Huffington Post the story "wants us to be interested in characters who are dull people to start with, made duller by their delusions of being interesting because they are high."[6] Some critics viewed the movie as an irresponsible glorification rather than a satirical takedown. DiCaprio responded that the film does not glorify the excessive lifestyle it depicts.[68][69]

Audience response[edit]

The film received a "C" rating from audiences surveyed by CinemaScore,[70] a rating lower than anything else in theaters the opening week of the film.[71] The Los Angeles Times argues the film's marketing attracted conservative viewers with morals that conflict with morals depicted in the film.[72] Christina McDowell, daughter of Tom Prousalis (who worked closely with the real-life Belfort at Stratton Oakmont) wrote an open letter addressing Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Belfort himself, criticizing the film for insufficiently portraying the victims of the financial crimes created by Stratton Oakmont, for disregarding the damage that was done to her family as a result of such, and for giving celebrity to persons (Belfort and his partners, including her father) who do not deserve it.[5]

Steven Perlberg of Business Insider saw an advanced screening of the film at a Regal Cinemas near the Goldman Sachs building, with an audience of financial workers. Perlberg reported cheers from the audience at all the wrong moments—"When Belfort — a drug addict who later attempts to remain sober — rips up a couch cushion to get to his secret coke stash, there were cheers."[73][71]

Box office[edit]

On its opening day in the United States and Canada, the film grossed $18,361,578 in 3,387 theaters, and was ranked #5, behind The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Frozen, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and American Hustle. As of February 2, 2014, the film has grossed $104,077,000 domestically and $122,300,000 overseas, for a worldwide gross of $226,377,000.[4]


The film has been nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay for Winter, Best Actor for DiCaprio, and Best Supporting Actor for Hill. It has also been nominated for four BAFTAs, including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, and two Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]