The real ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ is a man named Jordan Belfort, the same name used by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie. Today, he is a free man, a motivational speaker who charges big dollars to listen to him. He claims he has never been happier in his life, mostly because he no longer has to keep ‘looking over his shoulder’. He comes across, even today, as fast-talking, egotistical and self-confident – and without a single real regret about the 1,500 people he scammed out of roughly 100 million dollars during his days on Wall Street. His nickname, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ came from the TV series ‘Gilligan’s Island’. One of its characters, Thurston Howell lll, was known by that name. Belfort liked it and it stuck.
Belfort began life in the Bronx, New York City, in 1962. He was always a self-promoter, even as a child. At 12 he practised magic as ‘The Amazing Belfort’. As a youth he sold Italian ice refreshments on the beach and made enough money to allow him to go to the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, but he walked out on day one when he realized dentistry was not going to make him rich enough quick enough. He does have a degree from American University in biology. He says he has always been consumed with making money, even as a child.
In 1987 he began working on Wall Street as a trainee stockbroker, but was laid off following the Black Monday stock market crash of that year. In 1989 he either founded the investment banking firm of Stratton Oakmont, or bought out its original founder (reports vary), and began training young brokers on how to scam investors. At one stage he had over a thousand of them scamming their greedy little heads off.
The plan was simple enough. They were to ‘reel in’ investors by selling them legitimate stock, gain their trust, and then convince them to spend as much as possible on worthless stock. Then, when the worthless stock price rose high enough, they would sell their own stock in that company at a profit, leaving the investors high and dry. Belfort got a sizeable slice of each pie. In fact, he made so much money that the stuff pretty much lost its value to him. He would gamble away millions in Las Vegas just for the hell of it. One of his mottos he hammered into his employees was: ‘Don’t hang up until he buys or he dies’.
The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) began investigating him straight away in 1989, but did not shut him down until 1995. By then his ‘pump and dump’ policy had scammed 1,500 investors out of over $200 million dollars, maybe more. For six years Belfort had lived the high-life of debauchery and drugs, high-stakes gambling and women. Then he was arrested on charges of securities fraud and money-laundering. Suddenly, he was facing at least 20 years prison time. He then did what most greedy, self-centred crooks do in such situations, he ‘ratted out’ everybody he could in order to reduce his own sentence. And it worked.
In 1995 Jordan Belfort went to prison, sentenced to a paltry four years. Within 22 months he was a free man again. Not a bad rap for stealing $200 million. Gaol-time for his crimes worked out to around $9 million a month! While he was inside he started work on his life story. It became a best-seller in forty countries, before being made into this movie starring DiCaprio as Belfort. It is reported that the ex-jailbird was paid $940,000 for the rights.
Part of the ‘deal’ made by the FBI was that 50 cents in every dollar earned by Mr Belfort for the rest of his life must go to repaying the investors he swindled. Today, he vows that is his life’s aim, ‘to pay back every cent, if I can’. But is he doing that? He currently travels the world delivering seminars as a ‘motivational speaker’ to budding entrepreneurs, who obviously don’t mind paying through the nose to listen to a man who has lied for a living most of his life.
He is making big money from this, not to mention the sale of his two best-sellers, yet the FBI says he paid back just $21,000 in 2011 and nothing the year before. His Wolf on Wall Street best-seller sold 195,000 copies in Australia alone! In 2013 he paid back $11 million, but this was from sales of assets, not from his income. His speaking tours are for an Australian-based company, Fordham Co. By law it does not have to disclose any of its business transactions to the FBI. And it doesn’t, at least not where Belfort is concerned.
The man claims he has turned over a new leaf; that his greatest dream in life is to pay back those he defrauded. On the Australian TV show Sixty Minutes, he stormed out after interviewer Liz Hayes began asking about his contract with Fordham Co. His tantrum was scarcely indicative of someone who was genuinely remorseful for his past actions and ready to atone for them. Once a crook, always a crook, was the impression he gave. Whether or not that is true – only time will tell.
The man hired by Belfort as his own personal private investigator, is Bo Dietl, one of the most decorated police officers in the history of the New York City Police Department. In The Wolf of Wall Street he plays himself. He was once close to Belfort, but today has nothing but scorn for him. ‘He’s a punk’, he told an interviewer.
Former star of The Sound of Music (1965), Julie Andrews, almost got the part of Aunt Emma, but it ended up going to Joanna Lumley. Queensland, Australia- born Margot Robbie scored the lead female role as Naomi, and endeared herself to director Martin Scorsese by insisting she play the notorious sex scene with DiCaprio completely naked, even after she was given the option of wearing a bath-robe. ‘The whole point of Naomi is that her body is her only form of currency in this world’, she argues. ‘She has to be naked. She’s laying her cards on the table.’ I suppose the writer had to include the word ‘fuck’ and its various conjugations five hundred and sixty nine times in the script too. Another case of ‘laying his cards on the table’, no doubt. Personally, I could not find a single character in this entire movie who was worth worrying about or even thinking about. I mean, who the hell cares about a gaggle of greedy, immoral scam-artists, snorting drugs, screwing hookers and swearing non-stop? Horrible movie about horrible people. All it does is make even more money for its lowlife ‘hero’.