Wolf of Wall Street (the book) feels like one long brag, where Jordan Belfort expresses a token amount of remorse before going on for pages and pages about how awesome he was back when he was still slamming ‘ludes and bilking dudes. Enjoying the film while still believing Belfort’s an unrepentant asshole is the difficult cognitive position many of us find ourselves in, especially when said film gives Belfort himself a sweetheart cameo.
Interestingly, the same can’t be said for Wolf of Wall Street screenwriter Terrence Winter. Winter, like Leonardo DiCaprio before him (at least if we’re to believe his somewhat unconvincing performance in this Belfort promo), says he truly does believe that Jordan Belfort is sorry about doing all that bad stuff.
From a recent interview with Forbes:
When you first approached this material, did you feel like Jordan Belfort was apologetic about what’s he’d done, or did it have the same braggadocio as the film?
I didn’t really get a sense of the apology until I actually met Jordan in person. And it’s interesting – with words on a page, it’s hard to convey emotion, and even in the book when Jordan would say, “I felt terrible, BUT,” and then he would sort of go on to gleefully describe what he did. And you’d say, gee, is he sorry, or isn’t he? And it was kind of hard to tell, until I met the guy in person. And I can comfortably say, I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who would rather turn back the clock and not be the Wolf of Wall Street more than Jordan Belfort. I think he absolutely regrets all of the choices he made going down that rabbit hole, and as he said it to me himself, he just felt like he kept drawing these lines for himself in the sand, these things he would never do, and then through the combination of Quaaludes and rationalization and all of this other stuff, he started finding himself up to his neck in water, and it was too late. But I do however think he would much rather have gone down a different road.
Hmm, I have a hard time buying Belfort’s contrition act when he’s still living in a big house on the beach while owing millions in restitution and still peddling advice for “young entrepreneurs” on how best to butt f*ck each other (figuratively speaking). Notice how none of the advice in his videos involves having a good idea or coming up with a valuable product? And how it’s mostly still about how to most effectively con people?
So yeah, I haven’t hung out with Jordan Belfort in person, and maybe I’d really believe that he’s super sorry if I could see the emotions in his weaselly face. Or, maybe he’s still just really good at conning people.