It’s that time of year — when awards-season schadenfreude begins to swirl, and rivals begin whispering in our ears about the flaws in everybody else’s offerings. Against that backdrop, a video for a lecture bureau by Leonardo DiCaprio posted last summer has conveniently begun re-circulating on the web just days after the Oscar polls opened (watch it below). It’s a short testimonial extolling the motivational speaking skills of The Wolf Of Wall Street subject Jordan Belfort, whom DiCaprio plays in the movie in all the unapologetic decadence that caused his downfall. DiCaprio qualifies his praise for his screen alter ego by mentioning Belfort’s lawbreaking past, but backing even a reformed bad guy could be a slippery slope during Oscar season; there has been heavy scrutiny over whether Belfort has profited from his book and movie (he claims the money has gone to repay victims), and just days ago the daughter of one of Belfort’s stock-hawking cronies spoke out about the lasting damage created by their collective misdeeds. Critics and audiences already are debating whether Martin Scorsese‘s Oscar contender makes Belfort’s reckless behavior seem too seductive.
Related: Leonardo DiCaprio On Creating Fact-Based Black Comedy Without Glorifying Crooks
DiCaprio told Deadline that everybody associated with the film deplored the misdeeds of Belfort and his co-workers but that Scorsese never judges the bad guys he presents onscreen. He’d rather present the scoundrels warts and all, and let audiences decide. Still, Belfort’s actions as depicted in Wolf could make him a modern-day Gordon Gekko, if the cheering by a Wall Street crowd at a recent screening is any indication. General audiences have been more polarized, something that is reflected in the film’s C CinemaScore. The $100 million film was funded by upstart indie financier Red Granite, and it will need awards-season love to make back its money. Check out the DiCaprio video that was posted in late August:
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