For "The Wolf of Wall Street," the road to Oscar was a bumpy one, to say the least.
In 2006, a fresh-out-of-prison Jordan Belfort chose Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to option his book rights in a $330,000 deal based at Warner Bros.
Broke and indebted to his swindled victims — yet full of hope for the future — Belfort was sure his memoir being made into a movie would pull him out of financial ruin. But he never thought it would take seven years to see his life story come to life on the big screen.
As Belfort soon learned, "when Marty and Leo commit to something, it doesn't mean it's getting done. And then the problems start," he explained to The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview.
Here's where things first started to go wrong in 2006:
One, Marty is over at Paramount, which gives Paramount the right to co-finance. But Warners is like, "F--- you!" and they start butting heads. Marty was really concerned that the studio would make him tone it down. And then the writers strike hits and it falls apart: Marty and Leo go off and do Shutter Island, and I'm devastated.
After the project stalled for a few years, Belfort says there were many "false starts" with new people attached.
[After Warners renewed its initial option, in 2010] Leo's option expired a second time, and we had like five false starts. Ridley Scott commits, then Fox says, "We're going to make you do Prometheus." There were rumblings Warners wanted Ben Affleck to do it. And Megan Ellison offered to buy the whole thing — I had a celebratory dinner with her — then two days later it fell through.
Ultimately, it was DiCaprio's passion for the role that saved the entire film.
Leo just refused to let it die, and after the option expired, in 2011 Scott Lambert called a meeting with everybody — me, [DiCaprio's manager] Rick Yorn, Leo and Alexandra — at the Polo Lounge. And Leo goes, "We're going to get Marty." Then I start hearing about Red Granite. They buy it, they announce it in Cannes. They said, "Listen, we're going to make Marty an offer he can't refuse."
Throughout the filmmaking process, DiCaprio took Belfort under his wing — while Scorsese remained aloof.
I spent hundreds of hours with Leo doing everything you could imagine, from hanging out socially to showing him what it's like to be on drugs. I took him through the stages [of taking Quaaludes] and I was rolling on the floor in his house as he was filming me. [But] I never met Marty till the end of the shoot. I did a cameo: I'm the MC that first introduces Leo.
And despite being "the whipping boy of the world" after the film's release, Belfort says he understands Scorsese's vision for the film and why he chose to end it the way he did.
It's laughable when people say [Scorsese is] glorifying my behavior, because the movie is so obviously an indictment. I could have easily been redeemed at the end of the film, because I am redeemed in real life, but [Scorsese] left all that out because he wanted to make a statement — and I respect that. Even though I'll be the whipping boy for the world.
Check out Belfort talking "The Wolf Of Wall Street" success in his Hermosa Beach home:
To read Belfort's full interview with The Hollywood reporter, click here >