"The Wolf of Wall Street": What Do We Know?

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
December 12th, 2013

"The Wolf of Wall Street": What Do We Know?

One of the most anticipated films of 2013, "The Wolf of Wall Street" has attracted considerable attention. Its all-star cast has piqued the interest of many, and its fascinating source material gives the writers and director considerable latitude. Based on what's been released so far, we can make a few guesses about the film, which will hit the big screen on Christmas of 2013.

We know the film is based on the life of Jordan Belfort, who will be portrayed by Leonoardo DiCaprio. The son of two accountants, Belfort seemed destined for a career in finance, but he took an unusual path. His brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, marketed penny stocks, which he used to swindle investors. After years of partying hard, he served twenty-two months in prison for his crimes, after which he became an author and motivational speaker. "The Wolf of Wall Street" could take this material in a number of directions, but many expect a heavy emphasis on Belfort's partying and various exploits.

We can also glean that the film will likely be at least partly comedic. Matthew McConaughey's comedic chops have become sharp over the years, but other cast members, including Jonah Hill and Jon Favreau, indicate a likely emphasis on humor. Perhaps the most intriguing member of the cast, however, is Spike Jonze, the underground director with few acting credits. His character is listed as "Dwayne," and it will be interesting to see how he is used in the film.

We also know that actors and producers have longed to be part of the film for years. In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt engaged in a bidding war for the rights to the book's big-screen adaptation, with DiCaprio ultimately prevailing. We also know DiCaprio was able to attract Martin Scorsese, who serves as the film's director. With his reputation and money, Scorsese is not one to pick a film unless he believes it has real merit, and his addition to the crew is a sure sign of an ambitious take on the source material. Despite its cast, the film initially had difficulty getting funding until Red Granite Pictures, an independent outlet, agreed to fully fund it.

Those involved have indicated that they plan to make the film version as true to the book as possible. Whether the book is true to real life is up for debate, but Scorsese and the writers have indicated that they have no desire to sanitize the less wholesome elements of the book. This is not to say that the film has survived the ratings process unscathed, however; several sex scenes were cut to prevent an NC-17 rating.

The film will not be short. Some have reported an expected running time of 165 minutes, while other report a length of 179 minutes. The source material is expansive, to say the least, and a long film will give the crew a substantial amount of time to flesh out the character. Fans of the book have expressed doubt that a single film can capture the character of Belfort, and many were relieved that the film would be nearly three hours in length. Scorsese is no stranger to long films, but if "The Wolf of Wall Street" really is 179 minutes long, it will top "Casino" by a minute to become Scorsese's longest film.

We also know the filmmakers are gunning for awards. While any film with Scorsese's name attached will gain notice, early screenings have reportedly impressed those in charge of nominations. The film already has five Satellite award nominations, and insiders have lauded the film on Twitter. While a DiCaprio nomination would not be surprising, some have reported that Jonah Hill's performance is Oscar-worthy as well.

It is safe to say that debauchery will be a major element of the film. With its near-NC-17 content and a crew that doesn't shy away from gritty realism, the belief that the film will be a modern take on "Caligula" seems reasonable. It will also challenge the audience from a moral perspective, as they will likely root for Belfort despite his exploitative criminal behavior. Scorsese's best films dwell in this ambiguity, and his ability to bring the most anti of antiheroes to life may make the film one of the most three-dimensional releases of the year. It is unclear exactly what "The Wolf of Wall Street" will be once it's released, but early indications point toward a hit that will resonate with viewers in the post-recession era.