Avi Lerner: I Was Wrong About ‘Wolf of Wall Street’

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“I didn’t want to make a movie about a guy … who did so many bad things,” says the veteran producer who was approached about backing the movie

Avi Lerner, the founder of Millennium Films and Nu Image Entertainment, admits that he made a mistake when it came to “The Wolf of Wall Street,” director Martin Scorsese‘s edgy look at the sex-and-drug-filled 1980s stock market boom.

“They came to me about six or seven years ago,” he told TheWrap. “I rejected it because I didn’t want to make or see a movie about such a negative guy, who did so many bad things.”

Also read: Academy Overrules Producers Guild, Gives Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Credits

The film is based on the book of the same name by Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who stole millions of dollars from investors in sham deals. The explicit portrayals of sex and drug use, coupled with what some see as an ambiguous stance on the morality of the main character (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio), has made the movie a lightning rod for criticism.

Also read: ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Delivers Martin Scorsese’s Best European Box-Office Openings

But the $100 million “Wolf” has been a hit with critics (77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and worked at the box office, despite its R-rating. It’s made $91 million domestically for distributor Paramount, and has added another $77 million from overseas so far.

“I think because of the genius of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio,” said Lerner, the veteran action movie producer behind “The Expendables” franchise “that I’ve been proven wrong,”