Matthew McConaughey's scenes were shot on the second week of filming. The chest beating and humming performed by him was improvised and actually a warm-up rite that he performs before acting. When Leonardo DiCaprio saw it while filming, the brief shot of him looking away uneasily from the camera was actually him looking at Martin Scorsese for approval. DiCaprio encouraged them to include it in their scene and later claimed it "set the tone" for the rest of the film.
On a routine visit, Steven Spielberg spent a day on the set, watching the shoot of the Steve Madden speech. Martin Scorsese claims that Spielberg essentially codirected the scene, giving advice to actors and suggesting camera angles.
Martin Scorsese claimed that the sequence of Jordan attempting to get in his car while extremely impaired on Lemmons was improvised on the day of filming, and that it was Leonardo DiCaprio's idea to open the car door with his foot. DiCaprio strained his back during the scene, and was only able to perform the stunt once.
Originally, Martin Scorsese offered Margot Robbie to appear wearing a bath-robe during the seduction scene between her and Leonardo DiCaprio. Robbie refused and insisted on doing the scene fully nude; her first in her career. According to Robbie: "The whole point of Naomi is that her body is her only form of currency in this world...She has to be naked. She's laying her cards on the table." Robbie said she had three shots of tequila in succession before shooting the scene to relax. After shooting was complete, Robbie initially fibbed to her family and friends about actually doing the nude scene in order to delay any personal repercussions; claiming C.G.I. was used to superimpose her head on a body-double. She eventually changed her mind and confessed when the film was released.
Jordan Belfort coached Leonardo DiCaprio on his behavior, especially instructing him in the various ways he had reacted to the Quaaludes he abused as well as his dope-induced confrontation with Danny Porush.
Leonardo DiCaprio was obsessed with playing Jordan Belfort since getting hold of the book back in 2007, DiCaprio has been focused on turning the depraved tale of Jordan Belfort into a film. However, he wasn't just interested in this story's connection to the most recent collapse on Wall Street, he was also attracted to Jordan's honest and uncompromising portrayal of what he actually experienced.
Martin Scorsese has confirmed that some of the editing is odd on purpose, especially the scenes where one or more characters are high, every time Jordan is seen taking drugs the scenes that follow have continuity issues and often flow oddly.
The word 'fuck' and its numerous conjugations are said 569 times, making this the film with the most uses of the word in a mainstream, R-Rated, non-documentary film, until Swearnet: The Movie (2014) took the record with 935 recorded uses of the word. Thus for a brief time, Martin Scorsese had taken back the record that he had held with Goodfellas (1990) (300 uses) until Menace II Society (1993) surpassed it with 305 uses.
Martin Scorsese needed a pick-up shot of the "fasten your seat belt" blinking sign for the airplane scene but didn't want to waste time and money on setting up a gimbal. Robert Legato, the effects supervisor, took a reference video of one during a flight with his iPhone to show Scorsese. Upon seeing the footage, Scorsese said "Great. Let's just use that." Thus, the film became Scorsese's first to incorporate footage taken from an iPhone.
Leonardo DiCaprio says that he and Martin Scorsese were able to 'push the envelope' with their depiction of over-the-top sexual acts and scenes in "Wolf" and 'make the movie they wanted to' primarily because the production was financed independently, and not by any major studio. Scorsese did, however, edit some sexual content and nudity to avoid an NC-17 rating at the request of the MPAA.
In an interview with Margot Robbie, she reveals that for the scene where Jordan and Naomi have sex for the first time in her apartment and her dog tries to jump up and bite him that they had trouble getting the dog to jump, so they had to put dog food and chicken livers all over Leonardo DiCaprio's feet and between his toes.
The real Jordan Belfort supported the film's depiction of excess as true to life, though he pointed out that the film leaves the impression that Stratton Oakmont never did any serious work. Belfort argued that they could not have gotten away with their corrupt practices for so long unless they had been delivering on legitimate business most of the time.
In order to show Jordan's state of mind, director of photography Rodrigo Prieto constantly switched lens types. For scenes where Jordan is in a clear mental state, flat spherical lenses are used, while in sections where he does not, anamorphic lenses are used. Longer focal lenses are used from the stage where Jordan is being pursued by Denham and his team to reflect Belfort's unraveling and the sense of being spied upon.
For the deposition scenes, the actors were merely instructed by Martin Scorsese to avoid saying anything important, or anything at all. They have the freedom to improvise how to do that. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker said that these scenes, some of them 20-minute long, were hysterical due to the things they came up with.
Leonardo DiCaprio explained to Ellen DeGeneres that during the Quaalude sequence it took them seventy takes just to get the ham to stick to his face. This was achieved by flicking the ham off a spoon and using K Y jelly in order to make it sticky enough.
The initial cut of the film ran approximately four hours. Paramount originally intended to release the four hour director's cut in DVD and Blu-ray but changed its mind and stayed with the three hour theatrical release version.
When Jordan is filming one of his infomercials, he appears on a boat in front of women in brightly colored bikinis. This is a direct homage to Tom Vu's infomercials from the late 80s and early 90s in which people would be invited to his get-rich-quick seminars.
Production was halted for a week during Hurricane Sandy's assault on New York in late 2012. Martin Scorsese was even denied access to his film facility on Manhattan's 57th Street due to the potential hazards posed by a toppled crane near his building.
In the airplane bachelor party scene, actress Maria Di Angelis who played one of the hookers paired with P.J. Byrne (Nicky Koskoff), recounted that the actress paired with Leonardo DiCaprio had to be replaced because she was actually shagging him too enthusiastically and realistically. It was also revealed the scene had to be shot with the actors completely silent while filming it.
According to Martin Scorsese, the scene where Jordan returns home high on Quaaludes to address Donnie, the island in the middle of the kitchen was originally a hindrance that couldn't be removed since it was an filmed in an actual house. He would've preferred to not have been there originally but it ended up working well in the scene since Jordan was unable to move properly being so high and whatever prevented him from getting to Donnie added to the physical humor.
This is the first film for producers Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland under their Red Granite banner. According to them, they decided to finance this film as a challenge in response to the idea that no studio was willing to finance an explicit, over-the-top sex-laced film with a large budget (produced at around $100,000,000). Aziz and McFarland were formerly investment bankers, and the bulk of the funding came from their investors' contacts in Mid-West Asia. One company in particular, a development fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) led by the Malaysian then-Prime Minister Najib Razak (and Aziz' stepfather), contributed an alleged $64 million. This was following mediation by Malaysian businessman Jho Low who had befriended Leonardo DiCaprio and learned of the difficulties of financing the movie through traditional means. Ironically enough for a film about financial corruption, both Razak and Low later got embroiled in a scandal when they were charged of siphoning 1MDB money to their own accounts to finance their lavish lifestyles (Low even went into hiding). The producers finally paid $60 million in a settlement over charges that the film had been financed by embezzled investor money.
Mark Hanna is an actual stock-broker who eventually also went to prison for securities fraud, but many other names in the movie have been changed: Jordan Belfort's partner Danny Porush (who also was later imprisoned) is renamed Donnie Azoff; lawyer Ira Lee Sorkin, who later would defend Bernie Madoff is Manny Riskin; F.B.I. Agent Gregory Coleman is now called Patrick Denham. and Nadine Belfort is now Naomi Belfort
Another Martin Scorsese/Goodfellas (1990) & Boardwalk Empire (2010) character connection is former N.Y.C. super-cop and now-prominent private investigator Bo Dietl, appearing as himself as Jordan Belfort's real-life P.I., and recreating an actual dinner meeting at East Harlem's infamous and exclusive mob/celebrity insiders' restaurant, Rao's.
Although this was originally announced as Martin Scorsese's first non-3D movie to be shot entirely digitally, it ended up being mostly shot on film. Shooting outside at night was done with digital cameras to minimize the need for extensive lighting.
"RFK 575" -the license plate number visible on the front of Jordan's yellow Jaguar that he parks at the Greek diner when he first meets Donnie, is the exact same plate number also used in at least three other previous films: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), Final Destination (2000), and Zoolander (2001).
When Jordan Belfort shows up at a gritty Long Island strip mall answering an advertisement for brokers, he enters a store-front with a sign above it touting "Robert Mancuso Accounting." This is an insider's nod to veteran camera assistant Bobby Mancuso, who not only worked on "Wolf" but on two other major releases the same year: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).
During a heated argument between Jordan and Naomi, Jordan keeps reiterating "Who, who?" after which Naomi mimicks him sarcastically saying, "Who? Who? What are you, a fuckin' owl?" This was the precise line Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) used while interrogating Alan Marciano (Hank Azaria) in Heat (1995).
While a law student in the mid-80s, screenwriter Terence Winter worked part-time as a legal assistant in Merrill Lynch's equity trading department, an experience which provided some background for this movie.
In the conference room scene where they are talking about making the midget feel he is " one of us" they start chanting one of us, gooble gobble, one of us, we accept them, one of us!" This chant was taken from the 1932 movie "Freaks" where circus sideshow freaks accept a "normal person" as one of them.
The white car Jordan drives under the influence is a Lamborghini Countach. Back then in the 1980s this car didn't meet the safety requirements in the US with its original design. It had to be specially modified with additional bumpers in order to meet the safety requirements in the US market. The one that is seen in the movie has these additional bumpers on. Today any car older than 25 years old is exempt from design legislations in the US, so the Countach can be used freely without the bumpers.
The gray Jaguar in which Jordan and Donny are driving to the auto shop which they want to rent, is the same Jaguar that stands outside the diner seen through the windows where Jordan and Donny first meet. The shots of the yellow Jaguar are filmed later and the car can not be seen through the window during the scene.
The first major studio film to be released exclusively in digital video in the United States and Canada. No thirty-five-millimetre prints were struck for these markets, but were for countries where digital projection is not as extensive.
An unexpected person to thank for the film's existence is Tommy Chong (one half of stoner-comedy duo Cheech & Chong). Chong was serving a sentence in a Californian prison for selling drug paraphernalia over the internet and he was cellmates with Jordan Belfort, who was serving a 22 month sentence for stock fraud. Belfort told Chong multiple stories from his days as a stoke-broker and it was upon Chong's encouragement that Belfort wrote his book The Wolf of Wall Street, resulting in the eponymous film.
Jonah Hill received his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in this film, which Spike Jonze plays a very small role in. Coincidentally, two years earlier, Jonah Hill received his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in "Moneyball," which Spike Jonze also plays a very small role in.
In the conference room, the main characters sing " One of us " , a reference to the 1932 movie " Freaks ". Olga Baclanova was the lead actress in that film and in the 1929 film " The wolf of Wall Street " .
When Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Di Caprio) walks into Investors Center for the first time, the manager (Spike Jonze) greets him as "Dwayne." However, when Jordan addresses him moments later he calls him "Mike."
In the film Catch Me If You Can (2002), Leonardo portrays Frank Abagnale Jr., a con-man who pretends to be several different professionals, one of which is an airline pilot for Pan-Am, Margot portrays a stewardess in the short lived t.v. series Pan-Am (2011-2012).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The real Jordan Belfort appears in a brief role in the film's final scene, introducing his cinema stand-in Leonardo DiCaprio. As accurately portrayed, Belfort is now a motivational speaker who previously served 22 months in federal prison for stock fraud.
The scene where Brad punches Donnie is real, in fact Jon Bernthal hit Jonah Hill so hard that the prosthetic teeth he was wearing split and flew out of his mouth. Martin Scorsese then proceeded to film Hill's face swelling in real time.
Margot Robbie has revealed that she accidentally slapped Leonardo DiCaprio more violently than she intended to while auditioning: she got a little lost in the moment, slapped his face and said "Fuck you". There was a stunned silence on the set and then all of them burst out laughing, but she feared that DiCaprio would sue her for it. She apologized, but he was impressed with her courage and asked her to hit him again.
Although the real Jordan Belfort was supportive of the film, and accepting of his negative portrayal, he disputed the film's depiction of the end of his second marriage. Although he admitted to having hit his wife during a fight, he claims that it happened earlier during the height of his drug addiction, and that their break-up occurred without incident when he was clean and sober.
The gay orgy was one of the scenes that had to be toned down to earn an R rating. V.F.X. supervisor and second unit director Robert Legato shot footage of a chair in a lobby then had artists digitally implement the chair to the shots to avoid displaying the men's genitals.
Jonah Hill wanted to eat a real goldfish because he wanted everything to be real. Everyone was working so hard on this movie that he didn't want to be the person who wasn't. Obviously, regulations didn't allow it. They had a real goldfish and three goldfish handlers/wranglers on set. Hill could keep the goldfish in his mouth for three seconds at a time and then they had to put it back in water unharmed.
This film shares similarities with Catch Me If You Can (2002), which also stars Leonardo DiCaprio. Both are based on autobiographies written by men who got caught for fraud, and both end with the protagonist begrudgingly cooperating with the FBI.
When Jordan is talking about Brad's death he says: "He was 35, same age as Mozart. I don't know why I remember that" This is a reference to Amadeus (1984) where Mozart (whose first name was Wolfgang) is repeatedly called "Wolfie" through the film by his wife Constanze. In this film, Jordan is called "Wolfie" repeatedly while in is office and by his friends.
Just like in Goodfellas or Casino (like Robert DeNiro's Sam Rothstein), the main character goes through several make-up changes to emphasize his evolution from a naive, innocent person to a sneaky, money-crazed pervert.