What It Was Like On The Set Of 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' With Scorsese And DiCaprio
Last winter, I spent two days working on "The Wolf Of Wall Street." We shot in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, as well as an office building in New Jersey. Besides seeing some secrets of the film, I also got to see how Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese behaved in real life, and the magical world of stunt vaginas.
The first day of shooting was in Prospect Park, and as a lowly production assistant, I was assigned to do lockup on the roads surrounding the shot. Lockup means you ask people nicely to walk a different way, so they don't accidentally walk into the shot and ruin it. You're armed with a headset and your powers of persuasion, which meant nothing to an old German man with blood on his face:
"Get out of my way!" "Sir, please take a different route, you're going to ruin Scorsese's shot." "Move out of my way, stupid boy."
At least he didn't put me in a camp or anything. My first encounter with DiCaprio happened a few minutes later, when a Mercedes approached the road I was assigned to block off. Before I could see who was in it, I did the universal sign language for "pull over" vociferously, my ego still bruised from the encounter with the German.
Then I realized that it was DiCaprio and his driver in the car, and wondered if they were supposed to drive down the road as part of the shot. Not knowing, I made them do a U-turn and go back to their comfy trailers, which I imagined were full of rare oysters, cocaine and flawless Brazilian models.
The strangest part of working on the film was seeing Scorsese do his thing. For the most part, Scorsese is not on set, preferring to watch the footage from an undisclosed location far removed from the shoot. The British Assistant Director referred to him only as "the Governor," which he pronounced "guv'nor," and would constantly say things like:
"Ready the Governor's transport! The Governor is on his way!"
Fifteen minutes later it would be:
"The Governor approaches! Everyone get ready, here comes the Governor!"
Then Scorsese would show up, whisper a couple of things to the bigwigs or Leo, and drive off again. It was fascinating. I guess once you're one of the biggest directors in the business, you don't have to worry about actually being on set for your own films most of the time. That must be lovely.
At night, we shot a scene outside the park, facing a house on Prospect Park West. Hordes of women of all ages flocked to see DiCaprio knock on the door of a heavily-lit house, with the entire crew cordoning off the shot. Or attempting to. Groupies were constantly trying to inch their way into the street to be closer to the action, which we had to prevent for fear of them getting hit by a car and suing.
"Oh is that your job? To keep us out of the street?" one woman sneered at me. "Yes. Is it yours to be an annoying brat?" I retorted.
The next day of shooting, we moved to New Jersey, which is never fun. The office building we were shooting in was the setting for the stock broker scenes, a captivating dolly/vertigo shot and a vaginal reveal. The building was transformed, with different floors playing host to a variety of action. There were seemingly a million stock broker extras, all of whom had been dressed to look exactly like DiCaprio.
While smoking a cigarette with a dozen DiCaprio doppelgangers, I noticed them all staring at someone coming down the hallway. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that whoever it was was no normal man. He was a human Platypus. As he walked, his arms and legs shimmied from side to side in a way I had never seen any human move. I looked up, and it was Leo himself. When you see him twisting on the dance floor in the movie, that's very close to the way he actually moves when he's playing himself.
The doppelgangers grew silent in their reverence. Smiling, DiCaprio shimmied past and continued his strange, inhuman march up a gargantuan flight of stairs. No one spoke until he was out of earshot, and even then no one mentioned his bizarre gait.
The other thing that characterized DiCaprio was his love of E-cigarettes. He would suck on them fiendishly, while covering the filter with his fingers to allow deeper, longer puffs full of thick, impenetrable smoke that he would waterfall à la Snoop Dogg. DiCaprio's body double (for scenes where they don't need his face) was the most impressive doppelganger of them all.
Unless you looked at him directly, you would believe he was DiCaprio. He had the exact same haircut, clothes and managed to mimic the strange walk and alien posture that is a DiCaprio in its natural state. He even carried an E-cigarette, and smoked it the same way.
For hours, the double had to lie on his back and reach out to a hanging telephone as the crew lovingly, carefully, pushed a dolly cart with a camera set to focus in a way that the closer it got to the back of the double's head, the farther away the hanging telephone appeared. It was tedious, endless work, and we must have done a hundred takes, with Scorsese remotely vetoing them all. Eventually, we finished the shot, but film work lost some of its glamor.
A stunning Australian named Margot Robbie plays Leo's love interest, Naomi Lapaglia in the film. In one scene, among stuffed animals (one of which has a hidden camera that Leo later reveals to her), she tenderly reveals her vagina for Leo -- and the camera. Robbie isn't going to pull out her pussy for the film, so they had to get a vagina double. Imagine the selection process:
"We are looking for a flawless vagina! Must be camera ready, gorgeous and unafraid to appear myriad times until we get this shot. Show business, baby!"
If you think that's a hard role to fill, imagine being the man we ended our day shooting. In one scene in the film, Matthew McConaughey offers Leo a "tootskie" of coke while they dine in an impressive Manhattan restaurant. Leo declines, but Scorsese wanted a close-up shot of cocaine going up McConaughey's nose. Once again, he's too big to do that scene, so they got a nose double.
A harrowed, elderly man who seemed as if this wasn't his worst role came to set to be the nose double. Then production forced him to do bump after bump of fake coke as the crew gathered around a screen showing the shot. You could only see his nose, and the coke going up it, but we did take after take of it, and no matter what their fake coke is made of, it was clearly taking its toll on the man.
He was sweaty and miserable as we watched the closeup of a golf ball of fake coke go up his nose momentarily, then fall back out. The crew hooted in laughter as he looked apocalyptically dismayed at the sheer amount of fake coke he was ingesting.
That was the final day of shooting on "The Wolf of Wall Street." We cracked beers, joked and went home, another Scorsese classic in the bag.
Top Image Credit: Wolf Of Wall St