The most notorious white collar criminal hit the screens. HBO premiered on Saturday, The Wizard of Lies, a movie about Bernard Madoff and the fraud he performed.
Based on a book by Diana B. Henriques, the movie features Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Yet another frightening character to play
Robert DeNiro has played some frightening characters in his days, and now the actor nabs another iconic role to his already majestic list.
HBO premiered on Saturday, The Wizard of Lies in which DeNiro reaches new heights as Bernie Madoff, one of the country’s most notorious real-life villain, who committed what’s thought to be the greatest financial fraud in American history and a one-man stand-in for Wall Street greed.
The movie is directed by Barry Levinson and features Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hank Azaria, Alessandro Nivola, Nathan Darrow.
The script was based on The Wizard Of Lies: Bernie Madoff And The Death Of Trust by author Diana B. Henriques, who was one of the first reporters to interview Madoff in jail. She also plays the part of herself in the movie.
Becoming the white collar biggest criminal
The actor didn’t have the chance to meet the character he’s portraying and took to books instead.
“I didn’t meet him (Madoff) but I did quite a fair amount of research on it,” De Niro said.
When probed further on what aspect of Madoff’s physical behavior or look he adapted to play the character, De Niro simply shrugged the question off.
“Well, I don’t know if I can answer that. And I studied as much as I could. There wasn’t a lot of him but I observed the visual stuff of him and his behavior and the way he talked. And that’s it,” he said.
According to Henriques, DeNiro genuinely became Madoff. She recalled a scene where her character interviews Madoff in prison: “At one point, Barry (Levinson, the director) had this brilliant idea of having Bob and I improvise questions and answers for what seemed to go on for hours and hours.¨
“This was not hard for me; I’m a journalist (who is used to) asking questions. But Bob is having to answer those questions extemporaneously out of Bernie Madoff’s brain. And I made a vow right then and there to never take investment advice from Bob De Niro, just in case he’s channeling his inner Bernie. It was so convincing.”
De Niro expressed a disdain for someone like Madoff who used his influence to manipulate the trust of others.
“He’s a classic example of letting people come to him and get to a position where they would think it’s an honor for him to take their money. And that’s a classic con situation that you see in all walks of life. He was in that position and he used it,” De Niro added.
As for Madoff, he in his federal detention center home in Burtner, North Carolina, serving the 150-year sentence.
The aftermath of a huge crime
In December 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Madoff for securities fraud committed by his 50-year-old investment securities firm. In the following months, he confessed he ran the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison.
By some estimates, Madoff robbed his clients of about $17 billion, but others calculate losses near $65 billion. And those were just financial damages.
The movie focuses on something else
However, the movie doesn’t follow the highlights and the specifics of Madoff’s crime, but rather focuses on the aftermath of the revelation of Madoff’s schemes and how it affected those closest to him.
Which is actually understandable, after all you don’t have twice Academy awarded Robert De Niro at the top of the marquee and make a movie about the victims or the ins and outs of how it happened. But rather present a psychological analysis and show the behind the scenes of the drama.
When the Ponzi scheme fell apart following the financial collapse of 2008, Madoff’s sons turned him to the authorities, and they along with their mother were hounded by the media and targeted in lawsuits.
Madoff quickly became the face of betrayal, and that also affected the family that had no idea of Madoff’s game.
The family’s tragedy
“They were decimated by it,” says Henriques, “and this movie makes that clear.”
Madoff’s son committed suicide on the second anniversary of his arrest. His wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, cut all contact with him after the scandal. And his younger son, Peter, earned a 10-year sentence for crimes related to the scandal.
Actress Michelle Pfeiffer wasn’t completely convinced to accept the role, but ultimately was drawn by the chance to exonerate Ruth and her sons, who were “really convicted in the court of public opinion and in the media.”
“I think we’ve done that, and I’m proud of that, for all of them,” she adds.
Source: AV Club