For the last two years, The Hollywood Reporter has been following the “largest corruption case in US history” and its connection to Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s my favourite. I wonder if, every time a new story comes out, Leo’s like, keep my f-cking name out of it!
Nope. Can’t. Because THR just excerpted a new book about the case, Billion Dollar Whale, by Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, and how the scammers, including now fugitive Jho Low, “managed to suck in Hollywood’s biggest star”. Because the money they embezzled was partly used to finance The Wolf of Wall Street, a project that Leo had been determined to advance for years but couldn’t get financing from studios. The film finally went ahead with funding from Red Granite Pictures which was directly supported by Jho Low’s stolen cash.
If you were visiting this site back then when the film was released, you would have read how much I hated that movie. People jerked off over it because of the Scorsese-DiCaprio connection but I never understood the critical acclaim. It glorified a lifestyle that was made possible by ruining people’s lives, a tale of excess without a moral centre. Or maybe that was the moral centre – as Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good”. Is it fair to ask, then, what it says about Leo that he was so committed to telling the story that way? Especially in tandem with this story of excess and corruption that he was tied to in real life?
It’s a delicious read with details about Hollywood power brokers and players and the dirty underbelly of movie deal-making, details that Leo probably doesn’t want out there, because it gives you some insight into his life, into what it’s like to be in his orbit. How sycophants are dispatched to approach women at his request. How easily flattered he is by gifts. Or NOT easily flattered by gifts, in that the gifts that impress him have to be world-renowned and rare works of art, valued in the millions and millions.
DiCaprio didn’t really need the favors, the chartered plane ride to South Africa or a box at the soccer World Cup finals. He’d been a household name since the early 1990s, and like many celebrities, he saw those kinds of freebies as an entitlement. How Low differed from other Hollywood hangers-on, though, was the sheer scale of his wealth and his willingness to spend it. There are lots of wannabe producers out there, but none threw money around like Low.
Although he was Hollywood royalty and owned a production company, Appian Way, DiCaprio still had to bow to the will of powerful studio executives, and this power dynamic had been laid bare in his faltering plans to make The Wolf of Wall Street.
In other words, as THR tells us in the title, now we have some idea of “how (you can) buy your way into Leonardo DiCaprio’s inner circle”. And what that would cost. Civilian or celebrity, everybody has a price.
Yours in gossip,