Everybody loves Martin Scorsese‘s “The Wolf of Wall Street” – including, perhaps, people who haven’t even seen it.
The three-hour real-life tale of financial skullduggery and personal excess has become the hottest screening ticket in town in the first few days of its guild screenings, with Paramount turning away viewers at SAG, AMPAS, DGA and WGA screenings that began on Saturday afternoon and will continue all week in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and London.
The studio is also rolling out the film to critics on a need-to-vote basis, showing it to members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the New York Film Critics Circle ahead of their voting deadlines, and scheduling additional screenings for other critics’ groups who will cast ballots in upcoming weeks.
Reviews are embargoed, but it’s safe to say that early reaction has been on the wildly positive side for Scorsese’s take on the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, a freewheeling, excessive and wickedly funny 179-minute chronicle of sex, drugs, enormous wealth and even more enormous misbehavior.
The most controversial praise for the film came from the International Press Academy, a group of journalists formed in 1996 by Mirjana Van Blaricom, a former president of and defector from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The group gave the “Wolf” five nominations for their 18th annual Satellite Awards.
The curious thing about the nominations: IPA members hadn’t been invited to see the movie.
Did they vote for Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and screenwriter Terence Winter because they thought they should, or because they were hoping to up the star power at their March 9 show? That’s the conclusion drawn by Hitfix’s Kris Tapley, who broke the news that the IPA had nominated “Wolf” without seeing it.
Van Blaricom disputed that account in an interview with GoldDerby’s Tom O’Neil, claiming that she and 26 other IPA members had seen it as guests of SAG members at a Saturday screening, and that many members saw the film at other weekend screenings. AFTRA and SAG members, she said, “are permitted to bring two guests and we go with them. That way we get to see movies first.”
Paramount, though, pointed out that the only SAG nominating committee members were allowed to bring guests to the “Wolf of Wall Street” screenings – and that only 20 nom-com members brought guests, all of whom were known to the studio. “The IPA was not at the SAG screening this Saturday,” a Paramount rep flatly told TheWrap.
UPDATE: In an email to TheWrap, Van Blaricom claimed that she was misquoted by O’Neil. “The International Press Academy who could attend the SAG-AFTRA Film Society ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ screenings did so, and subsequently submitted their votes for the film, resulting in enough votes for the film to be nominated,” she said.
O’Neil told TheWrap that he did not misquote Van Blaricom, and that he “took careful notes” while she twice repeated the specific numbers about how many IPA members attended the screenings.
But regardless of how “Wolf” fared with Satellite voters, it seems likely that the movie will also fare well among voters with considerably more credibility.
Based on Monday night’s Writers Guild screening (at which WGA members were allowed to bring guests), Scorsese’s big, bold and excessive movie is the kind of last-minute entry that could impact the awards race the way Quentin Tarantino‘s big, bold and excessive “Django Unchained” did last December.
As a matter of record, I updated my predictions at the Gold Derby website late Monday night to put Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill into the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, respectively; to add Scorsese to my Best Director predictions; and to move Terence Winter’s screenplay into the second spot, right behind “12 Years a Slave.”
In a conversation with “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner that followed Monday’s WGA screening, Winter said that he wrote the script in 2007, and that Scorsese had only one request: “Could I write it in the style of ‘Goodfellas?'”
“Marty sparked to the idea right away … that this could be a great companion piece to ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino,'” he said.
In pre-production, Winter said, he sat in a room with Scorsese and DiCaprio every day for a month, going over each line of the script. “Didn’t you get defensive?” asked Weiner.
Winter laughed. “Oh yeah,” he said.
One thing he learned during that time: Don’t get too technical.
“Marty and Leo didn’t really understand it,” he said of the details of Belfort’s financial transgressions, which sent him to federal prison for securities fraud and money laundering. “I had to explain what an IPO is to them about 90 times. And finally I said, ‘All we need to know is, they made $27 million in three hours.’ And we put that explanation in the film.”
Winter said he spent a lot of time with Belfort, as did DiCaprio. But while the writer heard what a great speaker Belfort could be, none of his subject’s legendary exhortations to his staff had been filmed. So at one point, he said, he asked Belfort to deliver a new speech.
“I asked him, ‘If I could fill a room at CAA full of assistants and young agents, could you [give a speech]?'”
Weiner cringed at the idea putting a motivational speaker in front of a room of young agents. “Now, that’s all they need over there,” he said, laughing.