Jordan Belfort’s memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street, is a book filled with wild, crazy, and over-the-top stories of sex, debauchery, drug use, and illicit activities. The movie adaptation made by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio remained faithful to the book. It even retained much of the writing in the dialogue for the movie. So, how accurate is The Wolf of Wall Street? That depends on what your definition of “accurate” is.
The Wolf of Wall Street, both the book and the movie, are the products of a very unreliable narrator, Jordan Belfort. So, all of the things he said in the text need to be scrutinized. Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Belfort, even gave this away openly in his voice-overs. He’s selling stocks, but he’s piling a lot of BS, too, since he’s the product.
However, a lot of the events in the movie are correct. The courts and the FBI proved most of them. An FBI agent once said, “I tracked this guy for ten years, and everything in the book is true.” So, you can tell by now that it’ll be quite complicated to untangle the truth from the lies and exaggerations. Buckle up, as it’s going to be a wild ride!
Who Is Jordan Belfort?
OkDork’s article about the Wolf of Wall Street’s true story sheds light on the exciting life of Jordan Belfort. He is the embodiment of a go-getter.
Jordan Belfort’s story started in New York City, where he was born and raised, and where he eventually became a world-class hustler and salesman. At an early age, he started selling Italian ice to tourists on the city’s boardwalks during the summer. From his income from this, he was able to fund his education through college, and he wanted to become a dentist.
However, he realized that dentistry was not one of his strengths, so he decided to push through and develop his sales talent. He founded a company selling meat across the whole city, which is no small feat, and even scaled it to a medium-sized business. But it wasn’t always rosy–he filed for bankruptcy by the time he was 25.
As soon as he was free from all the responsibilities of that business, he landed a job on Wall Street thanks to a mutual acquaintance. After that, he learned some of the trade’s inner workings, knowledge that would be invaluable in the future.
Since Telesales was his primary role on Wall Street, it was a tough job. He had to call people’s phones to convince them to buy a product without meeting in person. He needed a complete package of confidence, resilience, and charisma to excel in this field, which only a few people have.
Although he proved himself to be competent in telemarketing, he was still laid off during Black Monday in 1987. So, he managed to use what he learned in Wall Street and pursued a business in selling penny stocks (stocks of small companies which can be bought for $5 or less).
Since they are very cheap to purchase and the companies they belong to are also very small, most investors don’t have enough information about the company they’re investing in. In fact, this is illegal because publicly traded companies are obligated to give this information to investors.
Was He Called “The Wolf of Wall Street” In Real Life?
So, who is The Wolf of Wall Street? Is it really Jordan Belfort?
The answer is, no one is. This is another outlandish claim made by the book (and eventually the movie), according to Danny Porush (Donnie Azoff in the film). Belfort’s colleagues at the firm or anywhere else never called him that as far as Mr. Porush knew. He hadn’t even heard of it until Jordan Belfort himself came up with it as his biography title.
How Accurate is The Wolf of Wall Street?
These are some of the most popular scenes from the movie, and whether they are fact or fiction:
Jordan Belfort’s first boss told him the keys to success were masturbation, cocaine, and hookers: FACT
Based on the book, Mark Hanna (a broker) gave Belfort this advice early in his career.
Belfort and Porush used this tried and true pump-and-dump scheme to get rich quickly after successfully scamming middle-class people to buy worthless penny stocks at 50% commission.
Forbes Magazine exposed Jordan Belfort and called him a “twisted Robin Hood”: FACT
Although he wasn’t on the cover, Forbes researched his profile and called him a “twisted version of Robin Hood” because he robbed from the rich and gave the money to his band of brokers and himself. It was an unflattering portrait, but Belfort’s promise of $100,000 commissions increased the number of job applicants to Stratton Oakmont.
Stratton Oakmont took Steve Madden public: FACT
Steve Madden did say a few words during the IPO, which were jeered at by Stratton Oakmont brokers. Since Madden, Belfort, and Porush owned most of the stock and drove up its price, they went to jail because of the Ponzi scheme.
Belfort used his in-laws to launder his money into Swiss banks: FACT
His wife’s mother and aunt helped take the money out of the country and into Switzerland.
Porush (Azoff) married his cousin: FACT
They’re now divorced.
The driving on Quaaludes scene: Mostly FACT
They used a Mercedes, not a Lambo. But the rest is accurate, according to Belfort’s memoir.
They had “midget-tossing competitions” during their office parties: FACT
Yes, at least according to Belfort.
Stratton Oakmont billed prostitutes to the corporate card: FACT
They also wrote them off in their taxes.
Belfort crashed a helicopter in his front yard while high: FACT
This is true, but he has now become sober in real life.
He sunk a yacht in Italy: FACT
It also belonged to Coco Chanel.
Belfort called his wife “duchess”: FACT
But her name was Nadine, not Naomi.
Belfort’s prison sentence was reduced after ratting on his friends: FACT
Although he tried to save his partner from incriminating himself in the movie version, in reality Belfort told the authorities everything he knew about Porush. In exchange, he got a reduced sentence, and they are reported to be no longer speaking to each other. Belfort only spent two years in prison and had Tommy Chong as his cellmate. Chong convinced Belfort to write down his stories and turn them into a memoir.
Belfort only scammed the wealthy: FICTION
Martin Scorsese faced some backlash from the media for portraying Belfort’s lavish lifestyle as extremely glamorous without acknowledging his scheme’s victims. Although Belfort claims in his book and in the film that he only took advantage of the wealthy, reports by the New York Times point to the contrary, as a lot of small businesses are still trying to recover financially from this scam. He also failed to pay his restitution, and Porush might still be running get-rich-quick schemes.
The Wolf of Wall Street Ending, Explained
In the movie’s final scenes, the real Jordan Belfort introduces Leonardo DiCaprio’s character as “one of the baddest m**********rs I know.” So, he was calling himself a bad person, if taken literally.
Then the “bad” guy tries to challenge people to sell him a pen. It’s a trick used to establish failure. He doesn’t even let people finish, taking the pen away from them and just moving along. Doing so makes the participants in this trick feel like failures, which establishes their need for what he has.
Those watching this movie in theaters or at home are meant to relate to these participants and ask themselves if they would be no different. In the participants’ situation, would you fall for Belfort’s trick? After realizing that he is a bad guy, do you still want to be like him? The movie suggests that most people want to be like him even after all the bad things he’s done. And his trick, which was also shown in the film’s opening scenes, also symbolizes that he has never changed and is still the same cold-hearted person.
In the end, how accurate is The Wolf of Wall Street? We may never have a definitive answer. Many, many scenes included in the movie happened in real life, but it’s also evident that Belfort loves to exaggerate his stories. So, some scenes and happenings may be overstated at the very least, if not outright false.
Either way, The Wolf of Wall Street is still a great movie to watch, and it never loses its appeal even after rewatching it over and over. Although the story’s truthfulness might be foggy, that is not the point. Much like the lesser-known movie about Belfort, Boiler Room, this is not meant to be a “how-to” story but a “don’t do” story.
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