Terence Winter is a critically acclaimed writer and producer of television and film. Before creating “Boardwalk Empire,” he was a writer and executive producer for the HBO television series “The Sopranos.” The Source Magazine was on the red carpet for the New York premiere of Paramount Pictures’ “Wolf of Wall Street,” at the Ziegfeld Theater where we had the opportunity to speak with Winter about his latest project – the screenplay for the Martin Scorsese directed and Leonardo DiCaprio starring film “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” out Dec. 25. The premiere was presented by Giorgio Armani.
This movie could’ve just come from your imagination?
Winter: I don’t think it could’ve. If I would’ve made this up I wouldn’t have believed it but it is all true. Sometimes fact is better than fiction and certainly stranger than fiction and there is nothing that says that more than this movie.
As you were highlighting and reading through Jordan’s autobiography, were you salivating?
Winter: Oh yeah. I couldn’t wait to do this. This was such an unbelievable opportunity, this is what you hope for when people send you a book as a screenplay writer and say, “Hey, can you read this and tell me what you think about it.” I read this in one sitting, I inhaled this book and I just could not put it down and I couldn’t wait to roll up my sleeves and figure it out.
How did you write the scene where Leo is snorting cocaine on a hooker’s derriere?
Winter: I called Jordan and got him to explain exactly how this works again. He was more than willing to break it down for me. Then you sort of plunge in. I have a very vivid vocabulary and just started describing it. As it turned out it translated really well.
Tell me about having Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese as your scene partners.
Winter: Some of the most fun I’ve ever had was sitting around with Marty and Leo – all of us reading the script out loud together. In Pre production we went through scenes and we wanted to make sure we were happy with everything so Leo would read Jordan and I would read Donnie and Marty would read somebody else and we would just switch roles and it was really a trip sort of actually acting out the movie with these guys. So they were literally my scene partners sometimes.
What did you love about the character Jordan Belfort?
Winter: There was a lot about Jordan that I recognized in myself. He was from Queens, I am from Brooklyn. I worked on Wall Street at roughly the same age. I understood this guy. He was a hustler as a kid, I was too. I just sort of felt like I understood him immediately and he was just incredibly funny and charming and I just felt, “Wow, I really would love to write for this guy.”
Can you speak about collaborating with Martin Scorsese on this project?
Winter: He is an incredibly open, warm guy, funny as hell, really a great collaborator, really funny to just sort of riff ideas with and just sort of ping pong things back and forth. We’ve gotten to work really closely on “Boardwalk Empire,” obviously over the last four years, we have a really easy short hand relationship. It’s just been wonderful.
Was it a big challenge bringing Jordan Belfort’s book “Wolf of Wall Street,” to screen?
Winter: It was and the story is so massive it really took a lot to sort of shrink it down into a place where I found the real through line and I could just sort of tell the rise and fall of Jordan. That took a lot of work. It was really a question of combining characters and shrinking the timeline a little bit but for the most part what you see on screen it is the story.