Based on Diana B. Henriques’ book of the same name, HBO’s upcoming film “The Wizard of Lies” tells the story of Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street con man whose Ponzi scheme bilked $65 billion from clients. The film’s star, Robert De Niro, was asked Saturday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour whether he thought Madoff was a sociopath.
“The only thing that I feel is that his kids didn’t know and his wife didn’t know,” De Niro said. “What he did is beyond my comprehension. So there’s a disconnect somehow that I still would like to understand.”
Henriques, however, came down firmly on the question.
“Yes,” she said, when asked if she thought Madoff was a sociopath. “I don’t think you can conduct your life with such a lack of empathy for the devastation that your causing without meeting that fairly spongy definition.”
Henriques served as a consultant on the film, which Barry Levinson directed. Levinson said that, despite De Niro’s presence, the film would have been difficult to do as a theatrical feature.
“The business is rapidly changing,” Levinson said. “Theatrical is going one way. We’re seeing the cable world, seeing HBO delving into subjects that are not happening.”
Executive producer Jane Rosenthal said that cable made more sense as a platform for the film.
“We had looked at doing this as a theatrical,” Rosenthal said. “Then we brought it to be HBO.” She added, “We realized that no studio wanted to make it. We would have had to the independent-film route. It was going to be a struggle to get that made. And ultimately it wouldn’t have the same audience to see it. We would have a much smaller audience seeing it as a theatrical. So as screens are all blurring, and as this business is rapidly changing, this was the best place to make the film.
“The Wizard of Lies” will premiere on HBO in May. Watch a trailer for the film below.