You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer ‘Hesitated’ to Play Bernie and Ruth Madoff in ‘Wizard of Lies’

Becoming one of the most hated couples in America wasn’t easy for Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer.

The actors, who completely morphed into Bernie Madoff and his wife, Ruth, for HBO’s upcoming “The Wizard of Lies,” were at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the film — six years after executive producer Jane Rosenthal optioned Diana Henriques’ book of the same name.

“I had a lot of hesitation after I signed on,” Pfeiffer admitted. “That’s when it really dawned on me the full impact of playing a real person who is still alive and who had been through so much trauma, loss, and had been victimized over and over again.”

The thesp was adamant that she did not want to contribute to Ruth’s suffering, which she made clear to director Barry Levinson.

“We had many discussions about how important it was to me that the takeaway was that she and this family were victims in the whole thing and I think we did that successfully,” Pfeiffer said.

For De Niro, scheduling almost got between him and the billionaire con man.

“Everybody was in a rush to get it started and I didn’t want to start in the late summer,” he explained. “We finally compromised.”

That “rush” had nothing to do with the 2016 ABC mini-series, “Madoff” starring Blythe Danner and Richard Dreyfuss.

“We were looking at (the story) from a different perspective, so I felt that however others were handling it, we would be in our own place,” Levinson said.

While exec producer Berry Welsh agreed, he did admit that the job had its share of anxiety.

“I won’t say that there were no worrisome nights,” Welsh said. “But when the cast finally got together, it just didn’t seem like anyone could pass up the opportunity to see Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff.”

Except maybe De Niro, who said that he never fully understood his character.

“Everybody has their reasons and he had his,” the star said. “I don’t know if anybody will ever understand [what he did]. Maybe he will write a book and explain his logic, but when it comes to each scene, I just followed the task at hand.”

More Scene

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]


    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

  • Taron Egerton Cannes Film Festival 2019

    Taron Egerton Addresses ‘Rocketman’ Comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Takes Subtle Jab at Bryan Singer

    Taron Egerton says that he’s flattered by comparisons between his Elton John musical “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last year’s smash hit about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. “I’m proud that we’re mentioned in the same breath,” says Egerton, who plays John in the upcoming “Rocketman,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to a five-minute standing [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Dua Lipa Tom Jones

    Dua Lipa and Tom Jones to Perform at amfAR's Cannes Gala (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety‘s Marc Malkin is on the scene at the Cannes Film Festival. Get the scoop on all the news, parties and more straight from the Croisette below. AmfAR’s upcoming Cannes gala is shaping up quite nicely. Sources tell Variety that the evening will feature performances by Dua Lipa and Tom Jones. And they’re not the only [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content