When the first stills from Martin Scorsese’s latest flick, The Wolf of Wall Street, hit it was clear it was going to be a stand-out movie. Having previously worked with his leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio on The Departed, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York and, of course, The Aviator, the duo have a proven formula for success together. And as The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the autobiography of Jordan Belfort– the character Dicaprio portrays – there’s an extra oomph and intrigue to the film. The audience knows that these events are, at least for the most part, based on Belfort’s account of events. Considering the array of drugs, prostitutes, alcohol, money, infidelity and all-round illegal behaviour in the film, with more off-the-wall indulgence than most people get up to in a lifetime, the film epitomises scandal.
It comes as no surprise, then, that while Belfort himself may be comfortable with the film – after all, it is based on his version of events – others are not so happy. While some of the minor characters in the film are based on composites and are not explicitly biographical, some of the supporting characters are in fact real-life figures who played a part in Belfort’s life.
For legal reasons, the names of some characters were changed – or alternatively, events in the film were made to differ slightly from the real-life events. Even so, box office success has been more difficult for some wolves to handle than others. ‘Wolfie’, Belfort himself, is comfortable with this new Hollywood success: he even has a cameo at the end of the movie, introducing DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, the reformed motivational speaker, on stage. Some, however, would rather stay out of the limelight. But Belfort’s autobiography committed his life’s supporting characters to print, and so fans of the new Scorsese movie have a reference point for discovering the real-life versions of the silver-screen stars. Here’s a look at the five principal characters in Scorsese’s film, and their real-life counterparts: Characters are ranked based on their influence in the film, and we look at some of the movie’s stand-out moments while verifying them or declaring them embellishments, as the case may be.
5. Special Agent Patrick Denham : Gregory Coleman
Seeing as Belfort and company were arrested by the FBI, it will come as no surprise to hear that the character who closed in on the wolf was based on a real-life person. The real-life FBI detective who pursued Belfort and his company, Stratton Oakmont, was not called Patrick Denham but Gregory Coleman. He said that the “brashness “of Stratton Oakmont first caught his eye as did the relentlessness with which they pursued their clients. Coleman had been working at the Bureau since 1989, where he remains to this day, working in the asset forfeiture and money laundering division. After reeling in a criminal as big as Belfort, of course Coleman’s star rose considerably: Ironically, his career had taken a sideline not dissimilar from Belfort’s current employment. He has a career in public speaking, specialising in business transactions, money laundering and interviewing techniques. Perhaps disappointingly for moviegoers however, Slate has reported that the hot-tempered exchange on the boat between Belfort and Coleman’s on-screen alter ego never actually took place.
4. Naomi Belfort : Nadine Caridi
From a movie-goers perspective, Naomi Belfort actress Margot Robbie is in many ways the breakout star of the film. Alongside her incredibly infamous nursery scene, Robbie embodies the sizzling seductress who woos Belfort only to discover the reality that all that is gold does not glitter. Robbie’s character Naomi is said to be inspired by the women in Belfort’s life, rather than a direct film representation of his spouse at the time, however, many similarities between the two emerge. Belfort’s wife in the nineties was former Miller Lite model, Nadine Caridi who did indeed have the pet name “The Duchess of Bay Ridge” from her former husband. The intimate scenes on the mattress made of cash- around $3 million of it- were also taken from Belfort’s memoir. She even had an English aunt who helped Belfort hide money in Swiss bank accounts under her name. The darker side of the marriage however has been the subject of much criticism aimed at the film: Belfort’s infidelities and indulgences were both blatant and apparent in his heyday. What this meant for Caridi however was that she had a cheating and violent man with a drug problem for a husband. Robbie met with Belfort’s former wife prior to filming the movie to understand her experiences and motivations while living in such a gilded cage. Actress Robbie recounted that sex and nudity are essential to the character Naomi as they are her only currency in the Wall Street world. Caridi eventually left Belfort after he kicked her down the stairs of their Long Island mansion; they divorced in 2005 and Caridi has since remarried.
3. Mark Hanna
Although the character of Mark Hanna receives relatively little screen-time, he is perhaps one of the most memorable and influential characters in the film. If you haven’t managed to match the name to the character, then just think of a tall, tanned Matthew McConaughey over a martini-filled, drug-fuelled lunch. At the beginning of Belfort’s career on Wall Street, he is taken on by the now-defunct L.F. Rothschild traders. He’s taken under the wing of McConaughey’s character, Mark Hanna who was a real-life trader and colleague of Belfort’s. The lunch scene dialogue is almost a copy-and-paste job from Belfort’s biography, one which Hanna does not appear to dispute. Interviews with everyone’s favourite lunch date can be found on YouTube, where he discusses the matter. After L.F. Rothschild fell from grace in the stock market crash of 1987, Hanna, like Belfort was out of the job. Although he disappears from our screens after this point in the movie, in reality, Hanna, like most good salesmen, shifted his skillset to ensure he continues to make big. He may have dropped off the radar compared to the likes of Belfort and co. but a quick sweep of LinkedIn US, will tell you what Mr Hanna is up to these days. The only downside however, is the revelation that the gorilla-like chest beating was not part of Hanna and Belfort’s fateful luncheon: instead, Scorsese and Dicaprio, amused by Matthew McConaughey’s vocal warm-up techniques, asked him to incorporate it into the scene. The rest is cinematic history.
2. Donnie Azoff : Danny Porush
Mark Hanna’s influence on Belfort may have carried through the film, but it is the wild and seemingly indefatigable antics of his business partner Donnie Azoff that hammers home the duo’s infamy. Donnie Azoff is not a real person, but instead, is closely based on Belfort’s real-life partner Danny Porush. The case of Azoff/Porush is a complicated one, not least because Porush describes the character- played by Jonah Hill– as a composite, while still admitting to carrying out some of his more infamous activities. This is possibly not Porush’s best move as the more he admits, the more it seems the character is him – albeit under a different name. While Porush and his family have contested several events, it is clear he lead the same kind of lavish lifestyle as his buddy Belfort. The facts as we have them are that Porush, like Azoff, was once married to his cousin, and does admit to eating a colleague’s goldfish in the office – all in the line of duty. He also reeled in school pal Steve Madden’s company for public offering, as in the movie. When the Feds finally called time on Stratton Oakmont’s illegal activities Porush, like Belfort, gave names of those they had done business with and served 39 months in prison for the activities. However, part of Porush’s sentence also included a $200 million fine to go towards compensating their victims, of which, according to the Daily Mail, only around $11 million has been repaid. Don’t be fooled into think that Porush may be stuck for cash however: he lives in a $7.5 million Miami property with his wife (not his cousin) and is believed to work in the medical supplies industry. Since the film’s release he has kept a low-profile but it said to still be in contact with his old buddy Jordan.
1. Jordan Belfort
The number one spot of course goes to the man of the hour, Jordan Belfort. As the other four players to make our list may demonstrate, the film ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ is certainly based around events in Belfort’s life that took place – but many would dispute the finer details. The book, like the film itself, is of course entirely told from Belfort’s perspective: When you consider that your narrator was a Quaalude-addicted, alcoholic, illegal stockbroker, it may call into question the veracity of some events. What is undeniably clear, though, is that Belfort is the consummate salesman with an innate ability both for reinvention and self-promotion. That said, it is reportedly the more unbelievable events that turn out to be true: Belfort did attempt to sail his yacht full-speed through a Mediterranean storm, only to mayday and be rescued by the Italian navy.
Belfort was born in New York in 1962, and as you probably already guessed, he dreamed of being wealthy beyond most people’s wildest dreams. He began his career as “pond scum” in L.F. Rothschild, before necessity required that he strike out away from the blue-chips, and into the penny stock market. From here Belfort seized on a business opportunity, roping in pal Danny Porush and others into the dodgy brokerage that would go on to be the Wall Street giant, Stratton Oakmont. As these infamous events are relatively recent, some clever digging on YouTube will reveal the real-life Belfort at Stratton Oakmont parties, describing his pride in his business and in the family atmosphere in the company. A company beach party that bears significant resemblance to the one featured in the Scorsese movie can also be found. Of course what comes up, must come down, and as the movie shows us, Belfort and his company hit the ground hard. As well as a prison sentence, Belfort, unlike his partner Porush, was ordered to pay 50% of future income to his victims. The success of the film means that the spotlight has again fallen on Belfort and allegations have been made that he, like Porush, is not complying with these compensation requirements. Perhaps the story that reveals the most about Belfort is the fact that Porush, among others, alleges that the “wolf” was never a title or nickname for Belfort, but rather a self-styled attempt to promote his biography. Based on that, it remains unclear whether “wolfie” is his S&M safe word. Either way, Belfort is clearly still laughing all the way to the bank, receiving royalties from the movie as well as working as a motivational speaker.