As far as legendary actor/director collaborators go (think Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant, Brad Pitt and David Fincher, Clint Eastwood and himself) Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are steadily carving out a place for themselves in cinema history. Taken as a whole, their oeuvre (Gangs of New York, Aviator, Shutter Island, The Departed) explores the darker side of human nature and The Wolf of Wall Street (out December 25th) is no exception. Based on a memoir of the same name, Dicaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker of the Bernie Madoff variety, who swindles tens of millions of dollars from his clients (which he spends on an steady stream of drugs and prostitutes, among other things) and eventually lands himself in jail.
We talked with DiCaprio and Scorsese about their multi-faceted relationship, finding acting inspiration on YouTube, and what snorting baby vitamins actually feels like.
On their collaborative partnership:
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: [Before] Gangs of New York I had been wanting to work with this man for a long time and I remember my father taking me to see one of Marty's movies and saying to me 'If you have a green light in this industry there's one person you should work with—this man." So I sought it out and it culminated in Gangs of New York. Since then we've had this great relationship where we trust each other more and more. We have a lot of similar sensibilities, like an acute understanding of what a scene should be, but more than that it's an honor to be on set with somebody like this who reinforces in me what making movies is all about.
MARTIN SCORSESE: The main element there is trust, creative trust, and it has been remarkable in this later part of my life to find someone that I can collaborate with who rejuvenates me every time we work together.
How Leo learned to act high on Quaaludes:
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: We wanted it to be a hallucinogenic ride, a roller coaster, and I was able to gain a lot of inspiration by filming Jordan talking about what Quaaludes were like. I actually had him rolling on the floor for me. But a lot of the research I did really came from watching this one video on loop called 'The Drunkest Man in the World." It's a man trying to get a beer, but his body doesn't quite . . . he's rolling around on the floor for hours. That was a huge inspiration for me.
What they used for drugs in the film:
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: [The cocaine] was really baby vitamins.
MARTIN SCORSESE: Yes. It helped them, actually.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Vitamin B. It really burned our noses. We did a lot of it.
MARTIN SCORSESE: Yes, it's very difficult to get babies to snort their vitamins.
On why Leo wanted to play Jordan Belfort:
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I wanted to do a film that, to me, was a depiction of the times we live in. Jordan Belfort was somebody that I was obsessed with playing since 2008, watching the destruction of our economy. He's not the problem, but he represents something within our very nature and our society that's very wrong. You could point those attributes to literally everything that is going on in our world today. It's something that I felt compelled to play. My attitude about doing this movie was we were trying to depict a modern-day Caligula and all the debauchery that comes with it. It was a fun process because there really was no limit to what we could do because Jordan's biography depicted stuff we could never have imagined and Terence [Winter, screenwriter] captured it all from the novel.