Jordan Belfort's Getting 'Wolf of Wall Street' Royalties & It Feels Like We've Been Trolled
I'm no prude, but Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, one of the most notorious stockbroker/con-men from the 1990s, made me feel pretty gross. I saw it on Christmas Day and there were more than a few moments in the three hour and one minute film where I had to look away from the screen. It was like a total explosion of The Pleasure Principle. There's a barrage of cocaine and prostitutes and yachts and Leo literally throwing money at Coach from Friday Night Lights. David Edelstein wrote a review over at Vulture and called the film "thumpingly insipid," which might just be the best phrase I've heard all year.
But I'm not here to review Wall Street. I thought it was bad and definitely lionized and elevated greed in America, even though a lot of the discussion around the film is whether or not that glorification exists at all. What's worse is that the REAL Jordan Belfort made a cameo in the film (you might have missed his — but did you catch Spike Jonze?) and he is getting royalties from his appearance in a movie based on a book that he himself wrote. It's almost like he and Scorsese are trolling us, or maybe it's just another shitty situation in which money in America remains in the hands of the rich, even when the "rich" owe $100 million dollars in restitution. Like... Belfort, actually. He wrote a rambling Facebook post to his critics and fans:
As you can imagine, I am very busy right now, but I owe this post to all my loyal friends and fans who have supported me since the beginning: For the record, I am not turning over 50% of the profits of the books and the movie, which was what the government had wanted me to do. Instead, I insisted on turning over 100% of the profits of both books and the movie, which is to say, I am not making a single dime on any of this. This should amount to countless millions of dollars and hopefully be more than enough to pay back anyone who is still out there. I thought this was already public information, as I have already said it publicly numerous times, but apparently there is so much NOISE right now that it has gotten lost in the shuffle. So, again, for the record: I am not making any royalties off the film or the books, and I am totally content with that. My income comes from new life, which is far better than my old one. (Although I will admit the Quaaludes were kind of fun, at least in the beginning. Thankfully, they're illegal! and impossible to find!)
I don't like all this glibness and cockiness masked as a High Art about Greed in America. I mean, in the film, Belfort gets sent to prison, but really it's rich white people jail, and Leo voices over something like "Suck my dick, 99 percent."
I'm just over the testosterone-fueled fantasy, and though others may be ambivalent on whether or not he's paid his dues (even though he literally has not), why does he have fans in the first place?! Just because we are fascinated by certain mythologies, especially in This Economy, doesn't mean we need to immortalize their lack of morality. There are more interesting, and important, stories to be told right now.