Inside the Homes of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Learn how production designer Bob Shaw created the extravagant world of stockbroker Jordan Belfort for this Oscar-nominated film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill.
The road to Oscar may well lead to The Wolf of Wall Street, which racked up Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Directing and Best Writing. The adapted screenplay, based on the best-selling book, depicts the uber-extravagant life of Jordan Belfort (portrayed by Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio), who swindled more than $100 million from gullible investors in the 1990s. Many scenes of the film were set in Belfort’s various houses, including a gorgeous brick mansion and beach house on Long Island, and a posh apartment in Manhattan.
To create the look of the Oscar-nominated film, director Martin Scorsese worked closely with Emmy Award-winning production designer Bob Shaw (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos), who focused on the ‘90s nouveau riche who came out of middle-class Queens into a life of glamorous, over-the-top luxury.
“Jordan Belfort was one of those who found he could actually acquire the keys to the candy store – and he did not really exercise any restraint with the candy once he had those keys,” said Shaw. “So the direction we had to go in is pretty crazy."
In this era, it seemed like America was striving for larger and showier at all levels of design, Shaw explained. "It was a period of great economic prosperity, and everyone was finding that there were things available to them that had not previously been. So things like the McMansion became popular. The average amount of square footage in houses suddenly doubled, and it seemed nothing was ever enough. Jordan epitomizes all of that.”
Shaw and Scorsese looked for the most luxurious, spread-out location they could find for Jordan’s house, where he moves with his second wife, Naomi. “The house we ultimately used was even more over-the-top than our initial first choice. I remember turning to Marty when we were trying to find our way out of the house, and I said, ‘Well, the fact that we’re getting lost trying to find our way out of the house might be telling us that we’re in the right place!’”
For the interior, Shaw placed special emphasis on the nuances Naomi would have brought. “She’s someone who was very aspirational, and I think when Jordan marries her, he also acquires her taste. She has a sort of Ralph Lauren aesthetic and I think wants the family to look like the landed gentry. She wants the house to look like Old Money, so there’s plenty of Shabby Chic.”
At a recent screening, Scorsese joked about a pivotal scene that potentially held a challenge – until Shaw saved the day. "I always imagined Jordan (DiCaprio) going into the kitchen, ready for the confrontation with Donnie (Jonah Hill). We had this beautiful house to shoot in, and the owners were so nice to us, so we didn't want to damage it. We look at this kitchen, and there’s an island in the middle of it. And I thought, Jordan will never be able to get around it because it was so big, and they’ll have to end up fighting at the table. So I didn't know what to do, but then Bob said, 'I have an idea! But I have to show you,' and threw himself across the island! The shortest distance to the table was by jumping on top of it! And I loved it!"
Shooting homes in New York had an added relevance, noted producers Riza Aziz and Joey McFarland. "We loved shooting in New York – it's the greatest city in the world. When you shoot there, it becomes a character – a part of your movie. And for every home we shot at, we knew people would say, 'Oh, Wolf was shot here. This was where X scene took place,'” McFarland said. “These locations become iconic for people, so we really have to get it right. Whether it was the modest apartment Belfort first had, or the more elaborate mansions, we trusted everything that Shaw did. With his kind of pedigree, we knew the locations he chose would be great. Every room had its own characteristics, and it was all so beautiful to be shot in.”
Tour the NYC Penthouse From The Wolf of Wall StreetView All 10 Photos
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