Leonardo DiCaprio on money and greed in Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street is hitting cinemas soon, and we caught up with Leonardo DiCaprio about what attracts him to do movies about money, and what they have to say about our society.


I spent a long time on Wall Street and met a lot of these guys. What was funny, and so ironic, was that we were making a movie about the debauchery of Wall Street but 80% of the guys I talked to said the reason they got into the world of finance was to try to be like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. And I was like: ‘Well, wasn’t that a cautionary tale of what not to do? I don’t understand that.’ And they said: ‘No man, we wanted to be like him; we wanted that life.’ And so did Jordan Belfort. For some of these people, it seems to be like an addiction, like a drug. For a lot of these guys, it was like their cocaine – and they would never stop.


It wasn’t really until I looked back at the last three movies I’d done that I saw a really prevalent theme there. I don’t ever question why I gravitate towards things, but obviously it was something that was percolating around me. Through those three characters, I realised: ‘Wow, I am playing incredibly powerful men that have a lust for wealth at different eras in American history.’ It didn’t really occur to me, because I just sort of say, ‘I want to play this character, I have to do this,’ and I never questioned it. So when it came to Gatsby, this was a guy who did it for love and created a fortune in the underworld. Now compare that to Belfort – this is a guy who, in the modern era, is doing the same thing and it’s all thematically linked with greed, so it’s prevalent in my mind.


Well, let’s be clear, The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie that explores greed and indulgence and the insatiable ability to consume without regard for anything else but your own lust. It’s interesting subject matter for me, and very pertinent to something I am fascinated by – human nature. I keep talking about greed all the time, but the more I talk about it the more I realise that there’s an inherent survival characteristic for everything on Earth to consume and survive. What is so fascinating about this is that we’re supposed to be an evolved species that is at least attempting to live harmoniously together and make the world a better place. But greed is incredibly prevalent, and just as rampant as it always was. I’m not judging it – and please don’t think I am – but it’s an inherent characteristic of society.

Leo's interview with Richard Aldhous is the pick of this month's issue. Get the iPad version completely free here.

The Wolf of Wall Street is out in cinemas on 17 January.