Throughout the process of filming the outrageous scenes in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill had plenty of off-screen antics going on as well — some of which played out in the film.
“Any time you do any sort of physical scene with Leonardo DiCaprio, he doesn’t understand that it’s acting and he beats the living crap out of you for six months,” Hill said. “Since he’s bigger than me, I couldn’t physically beat him up back so I had to figure out a way to get back at him with my brain.”
The two actors, joined by screenwriter Terence Winter, gathered at a Variety Screening Series Q&A on Feb. 10 at the ArcLight Hollywood and discussed what it was like to be a part of a film known for its depiction of debauchery and lewd behavior — all based on the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort.
One of the obstacles DiCaprio encountered during filming was food poisoning – at the hands of Hill. In one of the final scenes, their characters eat sushi as they realize their relationship and business will come to an end. However, it was Hill’s improvisation of a line in which DiCaprio asks his friend if he’s going to eat the last piece of raw yellowtail that completely changed the scene – and DiCaprio’s night of filming.
“I was supposed to say ‘yes’ and then eat it. But then I said, ‘No, buddy, it’s all yours,’ and then he had to eat it. So he had to match that take for the rest of the night and had to eat about 70 pieces of raw yellowtail and was throwing up into a trash can,” Hill said. “Everyone was like ‘Oh, Leo, are you okay?’ and the only two people on the floor laughing were Scorsese and me. Use your brain, it’s better than your muscles.”
All joking aside, DiCaprio said he spent a lot of time getting to know the real Belfort as he prepared for the role.
“I met Jordan pretty much right away. I had lunch with him, just to sort of get a feel for who he was, what he sounded like. I met his parents, I met his ex-wife, talked to the FBI agent who arrested him, as many people involved in his life as possible,” DiCaprio said. “I got a lot of insight into who he was and certainly how people might have interpreted him being on the other ends of those telephones… You could see how charming and persuasive this guy could be.”
Winter also said being able to “pick (Belfort’s) brain” was very beneficial to him, though director Martin Scorsese chose not to interact with Belfort.
“Marty didn’t want to associate with him at all,” DiCaprio said. “He needed that distance as a filmmaker to make his own movie and have his own determination on these people and their lives.”
Belfort, who makes a cameo appearance in the final scene, also helped DiCaprio with one of the drug-induced sequences in the film in which he experiences the effect of potent quaaludes known as Lemmons, which leave him with almost no control over his body.
“I had Jordan crawl around for me and describe to me what it was like on quaaludes,” DiCaprio explained. “He said basically your brain functions normally, you have the same motivations and you think you’re being articulate but your body fails you and you mumble and you slur your words and you writhe around.”
DiCaprio said he found further inspiration for that scene in an online video called “Drunkest Guy in the World.”
“I rembered this YouTube thing that I saw where this guy was incredibly motivated to get a beer and it took him half an hour. I just kind of watched that obsessively,” he said.
DiCaprio and Hill noted that the cast was committed to every scene and tried to do everything – with the exception of the drugs – even if it meant Hill would have to put a goldfish in his mouth.
“PETA wouldn’t let me eat the goldfish. So the day of, they show up with three adult goldfish wranglers – like adult minders of goldfish… I was allowed to have it in my mouth for three seconds at a time and then spit it back into water.
Now that audiences have been able to see the movie and experience Belfort’s life, DiCaprio stressed that their goal was not to glorify or endorse the behaviors dramatized in the movie.
“We wanted to put this culture on screen very specifically,” DiCaprio explained. “We wanted people to see this world in all its honesty and to be able to see the sort of shift that’s happened now where people are starting to understand (that) this is a reflection of society. This is the reflection of the world we live in.”