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:
Speak about why you wanted to be involved?
Robert De Niro: The script that we had by Barry Levinson and his son. I mean everybody, no matter how horrible they can be, and there are horrible people we know in history, they I’m sure have moments of kindness and empathy towards others and so on. I’m not apologizing at all for Bernie Madoff for what he did, but when you see people in different levels of their everyday life you see other sides of them besides the terrible thing that they did to people, to societies, to countries.
Michelle Pfeiffer: Well I think it was just really a combination of everything. It was an amazing group of people on every level. It was a really challenging part for me; daunting in many ways. Selfishly, I’m hoping that the takeaway for people is that she’s innocent and that she was in no way a part of this huge Ponzi scheme, because that’s the truth. And there wasn’t anyone who was involved with this, who researched this, or who wrote about it, who believes that she had anything to do with it. I think the world perception, for the most part, is not that. HBO— they like to tell interesting stories and this certainly is one of them.
Hank Azaria: For my character, Frank Dipascali, I spoke with FBI guys who him [Madoff] very intimately. They would tell me a lot of information about him and that he was in fact a very funny, very warm, charismatic guy. I said “Really? Was he ever contrite?” They were like, “No! He was always out there with it all.” So that’s what I went for.
Barry Levinson: You can’t present a monster as a monster. He [DeNiro] obviously had been coming off to these people as a decent man. How do you con people out of that amount of money? You have to have a certain kind of disposition, personality, character that people buy into. They tried to show that with the dynamic of the family. In a sense we always think of the con artist as this slick guy, but he didn’t work that way. He was a very quiet reserved character who basically said, “I don’t know if I want to take your money.” That was the attitude he had which drew people.
There’s a line in the movie: “people kept giving their money”…
Barry Levinson: That was the con man. That was a new tactic and how he was able to build that Ponzi scheme. But you can’t just show the financial you also have to show the man and the dynamic.
Tell us about the production design.
Laurence Bennett: Getting to do such a variety of environments: from Bernie’s offices and their penthouse, through all of their social life, the streets of New York, reactions and the effect it had on investors, right down to deaths and illnesses and prison. That variety, that texture, the contrast of all those pieces, makes for a really interesting visual story.
What other projects are you working on?
Laurence Bennett: I did a picture last year with Philip Noyce, “Above Suspicion,” about the first FBI agent to be found guilty of murder. It was again based on a true story. We shot in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Hopefully that’ll be coming out later this year.