The fourth season of HBO’s mob drama “Boardwalk Empire” ends this Sunday. It’s an engrossing conclusion that brings heartbreak, tragedy and left-turn surprises you probably wouldn’t have expected. You’ll have to tune in Sunday night for more, but trust us when we say the underrated show is doing some of its best work this season and it’s must-watch TV in general, with one of the best casts on television right now (Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Jeffrey Wright, Michael K. Williams, Kelly McDonald, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg and many, many more).
“Boardwalk Empire” was of course created and conceived by Terence Winter, the former “Sopranos” writer/producer turned showrunner and writer of this first-rate mob period drama. And “Boardwalk Empire” came to Winter via Martin Scorsese, who essentially gave Winter the non-fiction book “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City” and said, “Do you think we could make a TV series out of this?” The book covers the history of Atlantic City basically from its embryonic beginnings to modern day, but for Winter, the seed for him was the beginning of corruption that rose with the advent of prohibition. And history was made as they say.
Scorsese was so pleased (he directed the pilot episode and is still heavily involved in the show), he asked Winter to write his next film, “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” an adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
Scorsese’s ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ has been the source of much speculation this year for several reasons. It’s probably the last big “Oscar movie” that’s going to be seen this season (it opens Christmas Day and its rumored to screen pretty late in December for press) which makes it super tantalizing for media folk. But there were also several questions of whether it was going to make its December 25th release at all, and for much of October of this year, the media was speculating whether it would be ready for this year or get kicked to February 2014 much like George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” which just wasn’t going to be ready in time for December.
So as the big “question mark” of the Awards season (as pundits like to call it), what’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street” like? There’s been talk of the film being described as a black comedy, but to hear it from Winter it’s modeled on a Scorsese classic that has elements of drama, comedy and more: “Goodfellas.”
“It is very much [in that vein],” Winter said. “It’s sort of written in the same style, voice-overs, it’s a very fast movie, it’s really a wild roller coaster ride. I’m really proud of it and incredibly proud to be working with Marty and those guys.”
Like “Goodfellas,” which had charming and entertaining, but ruthless gangsters as the leads, Winter said “The Wolf Of Wall Street” also has very charismatic evil doers doing some horrible things. Considering the Occupy Wall Street movement of recent years, will audiences cotton to these characters? Winter says the movie works in a similar way that “Goodfellas” did: you’re entranced, entertained and fascinated by the lives of magnetic criminals.
“It’s interesting,” Winter said of the dichotomy of being charmed onscreen by men who commit unforgivable acts, something Martin Scorsese arguably always does best. “Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, they’re so entertaining, fun and seductive, that you kind of go along for the ride with them. They’re so basically despicable in terms of the lifestyle they’re leading, and what they’re doing and the crimes they’re perpetrating on innocent people. But because they’re so wild and fun and you’re living vicariously through their antics you find yourself forgetting that these people are horrible. They’re robbing people and ruining people’s futures. I think that’s part of it: exploring those themes of money at the sake of everything else. We reward these guys because they’re successful and you forget how they got that way.”
“I think you’ll find it’s interesting how incredibly funny, charming and seductive Jonah and Leo are,” he stressed. “Keep that in mind when you watch it and you go, ‘Wow, it’s easy to see why people fell for these guys,’ they let them run wild.”
More from this interview after Sunday night’s “Boardwalk Empire” season finale at 9 PM EST on HBO. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” opens on Christmas Day and you can watch a clip from the film below. One new photo too via ROS.