The Knockturnal was on the red carpet for the New York premiere of HBO’s latest film “Wizard of Lies” which airs this Saturday, May 20.
In 2008, stockbroker, investment advisor and financier Bernie Madoff made headlines around the world when he was arrested for perpetrating perhaps the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. The film examines Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme – his deception, lies and cover-up, all as the financier’s wife and sons are catapulted into a harsh and unrelenting spotlight. The film is directed by Barry Levinson from a script by Sam Levinson and John Burnham Schwartz and Samuel Baum. Watch our exclusive interviews below:
Talk about working on the film.
Alessandro Nivola: The family tragedy is a proxy for all the people that were affected by this but ultimately coming home to his nearest and dearest was the thing that was most unimaginable. Somebody could have perpetrated something that would affect the people that he loved in the way that he did. It’s like a Shakespeare or a Greek drama where everybody is dead on that stage at the end of it.
Nathan Darrow: I just started reading the two books that the screenplay came from were very helpful, they just get into details that feed the imagination. You start with a family, a close family – which thankfully I can relate to.
Why should people around the world see this movie?
Nathan Darrow: I think to see people behaving and living in specific circumstances like these, it can be very instructive, illuminating. I think this movie can soften us a little bit. I think when the story happened there was a lot of hype over the 65 Billion dollars, it was all about the money. You know, the scope of the crime. It’s easy to forget that we’re all involved in that, we all have families, and we all have secrets — most families, and we’re all just trying to get along. I think that that always has value when it’s honestly looked at.
What attracted you to the project?
Sophie von Haselberg: Honestly, I was just so excited to be a part of this because of the team and subject matter. You know this story is so timeless in its own way, which is really scary because it’s about greed and what greed can do to people and how it can ruin people.
What do you think of De Niro playing this role?
Sophie von Haselberg: Oh my god! I was just so excited to watch him on set. It was unbelievable. He’s the king and I think he killed it. It was just so exciting to watch someone so completely embody a role like that. He did it all so I bow down.
What’s the greatest takeaway?
Sophie von Haselberg: Don’t let greed get the best of you. And also the human spirit is pretty strong in a lot of ways. The number of people this happened to, reversed their fortunes, and yet they kept on every single day is amazing. Starting from scratch, I imagine, is not an easy thing and that’s terrifying.
Geoffrey Cantor: Somebody was asking: what did I learn from this story? I think you actually hit on it. You’re the first person to mention it from that side. Nobody is above their nonsense. Nobody is above what life really offers them. The humanity is Robert De Niro but it’s also in the story. You’re seeing someone who is broken, who has got his own frailties, his own faults and failings. From the outside you never know! You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors at all. I think that that’s what this version of the story succeeded so well in showing. I play an FBI guy. The preparation was really preparing to work opposite Robert De Niro, to some extent. I was saying also there’s an irony because my character is playing a low level guy and this is the most famous money guy in the world! So there was this wonderful symmetry there. I think I was nervous the day before but once I sat with him [De Niro] he was nice, professional, he knows what he’s doing and so the whole event was great.
How much of the story did you know before?
Geoffrey Cantor: A lot. I mean I’m a news hound and history guy so I had been following it when it happened, and read up about it even more once I knew I was going to be in it. I was fairly knowledgeable. What I didn’t see was how much his family was duped. In my head the family must have known more. I didn’t realize. I thought the family knew more than they knew. I thought in the film it felt like they were also taken advantage of. Certainly his wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer.
Tell us a little bit about the role you play.
Kelly AuCoin: I am the FBI agent who actually arrests De Niro, sorry, arrests Madoff. All I can think about as an actor is that I arrested, I put handcuffs on Robert De Niro and I actually lived to tell the tale. He didn’t turn around and Travis Bickle me, so I feel pretty fortunate.
What most resonated with you about the story?
AuCoin: I think what resonated with me most was the story of the sons and the subsequent years, and even in the fallout as the story was unfolding. Now I have not seen the film, I’ve only seen the script, and I was surprised how sympathetic I felt towards everybody. Every time I was on set with Nathan and Alessandro I was just so moved by their performances. Obviously I respond in a way to what I see in front of me. What they bring is really beautiful.
You’re also on a show called Billions, tell me a little about that.
AuCoin: Oh, it’s great. I’ve made such good friends on the show. I’m team Axe, the Axe Capital bullpen guys and gals, we all get along great – we’re buddies, it’s a great show.
Anything else coming up you’d like to share?
AuCoin: Drunk Parents with Salma Hayek and Alec Baldwin is coming up soon. The Americans is still running. And then Billions will be back by the end of the summer, we will start shooting.
How did you prepare for the role?
Kathrine Narducci: I got some footage of Eleanor Squillari (that’s who I’m playing), and I did a lot of my own research. I’ve never played a real person before so that was a lot of fun for me. Eleanor had a very specific way, the way she spoke, I loved her accent! I have a New York accent but she had a very specific New York accent which was fun to try to depict and get. And I hope that she’s happy with what I did if she sees it!
Why is this story important for people to know around the world?
Kathrine Narducci: I think just everybody is definitely interested in it. The woman who wrote it was visiting Bernie. We know that she was the only one that he would allow in there besides the wife and family. I feel like this story is important because it is very truthful. This is the truth. It’s not like a “tv movie” or anything. Barry Levinson, Bob [De Niro], Michelle, HBO…it’s just going to be very truthful and I think that that’s what they’re going to get: very real and honest truth. Whether people are comfortable with it or not, I just think it’s going to be very honest. That’s the main point.