Asked by Deadline‘s Michael Fleming what he was going for with The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese answers as follows: “I didn’t want [audiences] to be able to think ‘problem solved’ and forget about it. I wanted them to feel like they’d been slapped into recognizing that this behavior has been encouraged in this country, and that it affects business and the world, and everything down to our children and how they’re going to live, and their values in the future.
“It’s almost becoming like, these days in Hollywood, people misbehave, they have problems in their lives, drugs, alcohol, they go to rehab and come out again. And that means it’s okay, it’s an expected ritual you go through.
“You make a film about slavery, it’s important for young people to understand and see it vibrantly presented on the screen. And when you make a film” — not Wolf, he means — “that just points up and decries the terrible goings on in the financial world and the financial philosophy and the financial religion of America, we do that a certain way and it makes us feel okay, that we’ve done our duty, we’ve seen the film, given it some awards and it goes away and we put it out of our minds.
Scorsese: “By the way, Jordan [Belfort] and a bunch of guys went to jail, and even though they served sentences in very nice jails, the reality is jail is nice and a light sentence is still a sentence. The lingering reality is, if you look at the last disaster this world created, who went to jail?” Fleming: “Nobody.”
Scorsese: “That’s right.”
Fleming: “You’ve said this movie was an expression of anger.”
Scorsese: “More like frustration, really. I’m just sick of it.”
Flemimg: “It is notable that you resisted wrapping this in a bright, shiny moralistic package.”
Scorsese: “It wouldn’t mean anything. People would accept it and forget about. You see that on television, like every two seconds. It no longer means something. I felt here that if we were going to try and say it, let’s do it, full out. Be as open about it as possible.”