Leonardo DiCaprio Reveals the 1 Reason Why He Loved Filming ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’: ‘[I Had] No Moral High Ground’

Leonardo DiCaprio has appeared in several high-grossing films during his career. Though his breakout role came with playing Jack Dawson in 1997’s “Titanic,” he has arguably had other defining roles since. In 2013, DiCaprio starred in the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” based on the real-life story of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort. And there was one reason why he loved portraying such a character.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for Turner

Leonardo DiCaprio starred in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ alongside Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill

Anyone who has seen the movie knows how hard it is to imagine living life like Jordan Belfort did. But DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese brought Belfort’s story to millions of eyes in the three-hour film. DiCaprio played a stockbroker who made a living off of essentially cheating people out of money. He convinced people that penny stocks were worth more than they actually were (commonly known as a “pump and dump” scam), and in turn, his clients invested thousands with no real return, minus lining Belfort’s pockets.

DiCaprio starred alongside Margot Robbie, who played Naomi Belfort; it was Robbie’s breakout role.  The film also starred Jonah Hill, who played Belfort’s longtime best friend and business partner, Donnie Azoff.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill | Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Giorgio Armani

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DiCaprio revealed the role was more ‘freeing’ than anything he’d ever done

Belfort had no rules; he did what he wanted, when he wanted, including spending millions each month and continuously cheating on his wife. And in getting into character, DiCaprio revealed how “freeing” it felt to play a character with so few morals.

“It’s incredibly freeing, performance-wise, to have no moral high ground and nobody really in the film that I had to answer to,” DiCaprio told Morning Edition’s David Greene, according to NPR. DiCaprio also said that the film was about displaying greed more than anything else — even more than its portrayal of Belfort, specifically. “It’s the exploration of greed in a lot of ways. And, to me, [greed is] the most destructive force in our modern era, and it’s going to continue to be so.”

DiCaprio also spoke with the real Belfort to get a sense of what this man was like. “I see that he’s done everything he possibly can to repay his victims, and since then, he’s been trying to influence others to make the right decisions,” DiCaprio said.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio | James Devaney/WireImage

DiCaprio and Scorsese faced criticism over the lack of portrayal of the people Belfort hurt 

Though “The Wolf of Wall Street” was a major success, grossing nearly $400 million at the box office, it was met with criticism over how the movie failed to recognize the destruction that Belfort caused on his path to success. Rather, it only highlighted the benefits — the beautiful house, the endless supply of money and women, the yachts, the helicopters, etc.

DiCaprio defended Scorsese’s focus, saying that the movie was meant to highlight something much bigger than only Belfort’s story. “I think everyone knows the ramifications of this sort of attitude … We’ve heard those stories,” DiCaprio said. “To us, it was much more important to explore the attitude of these people, and how … You don’t even pay attention to the wake of your destruction. The victims are irrelevant.”