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Interview with Michael Douglas, Susan Surandon, Josh Brolin, stars, and director Oliver Stone of WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS

Twentieth Century Fox releases Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps nationwide on September 24th, 2010.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps means for New York City?

OS: I donít know the answer to that. We made the film consciously with the idea that we were doing a story about people. And those verities about relationships of love and trust and greed and betrayal, they go on and on. Theyíre equivalent to the Ď80s, and theyíre equivalent now. There were so many things written about the 2008 [economic crisis], so many books, documentaries, we wouldíve been stuck in a time warp if we were primarily focused on that. I think [New York City] was a backdrop, and I think thatís why it was effective. Whether New York changes or thereís a lesson to be learned, I could no more give you an answer than I could in 1987, when I thought greed was outrageous. Look, you donít know whatís going to happen. If you donít learn something from 2008, I think we had a significant heart attack back then, and the signs are very clear that America s living beyond its means. I heard New York is booming again and doing very well, so who knows? If the bankers go back to their habits, weíre junkies, and I think weíll keep borrowing money. I think China is going to reach a limit. Is there a new customer around? Is there a new country? Is there a new sucker?

MD: I thought New York looked beautiful. And just looking at it and acknowledging [director of photography] Rodrigo Prieto who was Oliverís call, I think, when I saw the picture for the first time, I was, "Wow, this is sexy. This is a beautiful, seductive, gorgeous-looking city." And so if youíre going to put this witchís brew, then this is an awfully nice cauldron to have it in.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Oliver, did you make any changes to the film after its debut at Cannes?

OS: The movie at Cannes was very well-received. We were very happy. For me, it was very classy. It was probably the highlight of my film life. Iíve never seen a red carpet like that in my life ó coming in and going out, by the way. Coming in was just as good as going out. The music, Michael was there and he would agree and Josh [would agree too], was very beautiful. But that was a platform, and I was glad that we took it. Iím glad we didnít come out in April [with this movie]. Iím happy to be here in September. Really, really, because April didnít feel right. We were rushing. We finished the movie December 10th, [2009], and then it was April [2010] coming out, and then May. It was just too rushed. We were rushing it. I was happy with the film, and I was OK with it, but I bought an extra three weeksí work time in the editing room with that delay for Cannes. We fixed some things before [the Cannes premiere]. And when we went there, we were looking. I thought it was solid, but there were some things in the third act that I thought could be better, more realistic. So we went back and did a little work this summer [in 2010]. I think we took advantage of that platform, and Iím happier with the film now. And I hope you agree. NYC MOVIE GURU: What specific changes did you make?

OS: Well, essentially, there was an added scene with Gordon and Eli Wallach [as Julie Steinhardt] in London, which is very important to the idea that [Gordon Gekko] doing very well and has a lot more money than $100 million, that heís actually monkey-ed his way up to a $1.3 billion hedge fund, which is doable in a few weeks, especially at the bottom there. At the bottom of the market, he is buying everything he can, pretty much. Well, not everything. Thatís why he does so well. Eli Wallach, [who plays Jules Steinhardt], comes over to make a deal with him, and he gets very cynical and very real. Also, you briefly see in a scene with the computer that he has much more money in his assets than just $100 million.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How devilish do you see Gordon Gekko as?

OS: I still think the character of Gordon Gekko is [both an] angel and [a] devil. Thereís a bit of both. Heís bad and good. So thereís a bit of that going on, as well as some other tweaks with music and this and that. Thereís also a wonderful ending scene, which I always liked, and I put that back in: the rooftop scene. But it was altered and changed. It gives homage to the idea of bubbles ó the bubble theory of life which is ultimately what this movie is about. Itís a very whimsical movie. I think it ended too abruptly at Cannes. So the bubbles and the David Byrne [song playing during the end credits] give it a sense that this will go on. Iím not sure itís fixed. This concept of American optimism, making money, being successful is an ongoing part of the American ethos.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Have you heard from someone like Michael Milken, whoís often been called the real-life Gordon Gekko?

MD: I met Michael Milken for the first time with Oliver Stone at the Drexel Burnham offices in Los Angeles. We were doing homework, and they were giving us a tour. Michael was a little nervous at the time. And then Oliver said, "Can you show me the shredding machines?" SS: [laughs] And "Were they big?"

MD:. He said, "Excuse me." Everybodyís always an expert if youíre doing a picture in their area. Thatís the one area that Oliver, in terms of verisimilitude, particularly on "Money Never Sleeps," he was making us all crazy as we began shooting and getting into the detail and everything else. I think he gets a particular enjoyment out of satisfying [those] 70 people who possibly understand the entire script and all of that. And thatíd all accurate. But it is a phenomenon. Itís a wonderful opening. The first [Wall Street] it did well, but the kind of life itís taken on is kind of a unique phenomenon between the movie and the world to where itís at today.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Oliver, what do you think made Wall Street a classic?

Stone: It came out of nowhere. There were no business movies being made since the 1950s ó authentic business movies. My dad used to bitch about that to me. "Why do they make businessmen into the villain?í Well, I made one. Me and Stanley Weiser, who co-wrote the Wall Street script with me. It was iconic. It was different. We didnít have business news, CBNC, for those of you [too young to remember when Wall Street was initially released.] They didnít have business news [on a 24-hour-channel devoted to it], and that came about afterward. All that culture, that celebrated of wealth, thatís all Ď80s, Ď90s. It was a modest success. It wasnít huge. And it grew and hung in there. I think the lines are snappy. Michaelís performance was noted, obviously with an Oscar, but also he was very slick. Pat Riley was one of his models. Who else? [Michael] Milken to some degree. Asher Adelman. That was a new breed. Now Josh is doing it again in this version. I look at [Bretton James] as a new Gekko, in his 40s, in a bigger sense, because Gekko gets subsumed by the hedge funders in the Ď90s, and the hedge funders get subsumed by the bankers. This is institutional banking. The banks of the United States become like Gordon Gekko. So the outsider works his way to the inside by the 2000s. But the lines of dialogue and the pace of the Wall Street were new and different [back then]. Now, everyoneís familiar with that style because itís all over the place. So our issue with the film was, "How do you go about it in a fresh way?" Thatís why itís very good for [Gekko] to start at the bottom in prison. And the style, we didnít emphasize the style. Itís there, itís slick, but we donít have to emphasize it anymore. So we took another approach.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Michael, how do you imagine Gordon Gekko as a teenager?

MD: I donít know. I think he found out he was Jewish when he was 13.

NYC MOVIEGURU: Susan, what was the process like to find the right look and accent for your character?

SS: Iím from Long Island, and Iím flipping properties. Oliver was really great because he brought somebody in who gave us all the information and nails and hairdo and pocketbooks to copy. I had a really good dialect coach, and it was really fun to do that. But sheís from Long Island, and part of the wonder of Shia Lebeouf character is that heís come from somewhere unexpected to find his way up, itís important to see the difference in where he came from and where heís aspiring to. So the accent, I hope wasnít too much, but it kind of is. It kind of is, really. But I had a lot of friends who just kept asking me to do it, so there must be something really appealing about listening to it.

SS: Iíd like to add to that Susanís performance is really an important little section in this movie because it really sets where Jake Moore comes from. I think you if you look at the 1987 film, itís more centered in neighborhood, because, [back then, Bud Foxís] father [was] a union figure. And I think part of the crux of the story is that [Bud] sells out his father and the union in order to advance himself and Gordon Gekkoís interests in the movie. But when you look at the current landscape, it really strikes me that there is no union presence. Thereís no point putting one in [the "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" movie], because they really have disappeared from our landscape as a factor. Not that they havenít, but wages have flattened so much since 1973; they havenít grown. The AFL-CIO is not what it once was. So the gap between the working man and CEOs and stockholders has enormously grown. And this is a problem. So, Sylvia Moore is the only working-class source in this film and plays a rather lesser role because she isnít a union. She is actually a nurse who became a realtor, which became a lot of the Ď80s, Ď90s activity. The Peter Principle: They do something to make money faster and give up their professions. So I think thereís a little story here. But itís sad that our country, especially in the economics of it, has moved against the interest of the working man.

SS: Thatís exactly what I wanted to say.

MD: I just wanted to say that we all say hello to each other the first day of shooting, and I had nothing to do with Susan in the movie at all, until I get to see it in the end.

SS: Thank you.

MD: And so much detail to the scene [where Sylvia is] back as a nurse and a full circle. Itís the kind of thing where someone as good as you are takes that part is what helps make a movie work, where all of a sudden, you have so many different parts where people just come up, and thereís not a loose spot. You were really good.

SS: Thank you, Michael. I did ask if it [my role in the movie] was going to be cut before I said I would do it.

OS: She did, she did. Sheís a very smart woman.

SS: He gave the best answer. I donít know if Iím smart, but you totally seduced me. He said, "Well, it wouldnít make me look good if I didnít use you properly," which was a great answer. And then he explained what he just explained and I said, "Okay, that sounds like fun." Itís great to be a part of this. I really wanted to work with these guys, but at the end of the day, when itís not in the movie ó the scene that you took [the movie] for ó itís very discouraging. Iíve had a few of those experiences where things were cut down. So I said, "Wait a minute. Before I learn this accent and get those nails on, just tell me if this is going to be in the movie." And he was great.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Michael, when you were asked to reprise your role as Gordon Gekko, did you say yes immediately? How did playing Gordon Gekko in this sequel compare to playing the role in the first Wall Street movie?

MD: Well, it was always, "Does the idea sound good?" Yeah, the idea sounds good. We had to have a script. The first time around, we had a script. And it wasnít until the second time around with [co-writer] Allan Loeb, when Oliver committed, and really felt there was no one else possible if we were possibly going to do this again. Did I like the idea? Yeah, if it made sense and only if it was written there. And we got it there. This time around, it was fun because thereís more of an arc to go. I think we were all a little concerned because of the pre-conception of Gordon and that whole power thing. If you strip that all away, will people be interested at all? But on the other hand, it was nice to be able to have much more of an arc and to see how soulful Oliver has gotten in his old age.

SS: How mellow.

OS: Thatís not fair. You didnít know me [when I was] young.

SS: I heard.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What motivates you in life? OS: I look at it as a process. Itís a journey. Like everyone else, I feel like it deepens as you go. You learn. Youíre more conscious, more aware ó or, as Michael said, more sensitive in ways as you grow. If itís interesting, you stay interesting. Thatís what motivates me. If I was repeating myself, I donít know if Iíd work the same way. Iíd get tired.

SS: Iím just curious. I like to make connections. I think that this is the perfect business for that because I like to try things that happen. I like to have a good time, and when that stops, then Iíll stop doing this. Iím kind of lazy, so Iím motivated by things that frighten me. So when I try to figure something out, and Iíve never done it before, Iím interested in that. So I guess itís just curiosity and greed for experience or hunger for experience, for connection with people. I see myself in a business thatís about service, really.

MD: A good part, a good movie. Just quality, wherever you can find it. And a little financial security is good.

JB: Community. The communal effort is great. I grew up in the country, where people sit around the campfire and try to outdo each other in telling stories. There was no pretense involved. In my experience, especially in working in the last few years with some great filmmakers, thereís a lack of pretense there. And itís just really an insatiable curiosity of behavior and what makes people tick and why and how and what we can learn from it. Iíve talked to people who say, "Oh, I donít really go to movies. Itís the industry that Iím in, and I donít like it. I just look at it technically." And I just donít understand that at all. I love going to movies by myself, and the lights go down, and the tears start Ö Iím really affected by it. And I love that. Itís all this great storytelling thing. And whether itís in life and youíre sitting around with your kids and youíre making up a story for them before they go to bed or youíre with Oliver Stone and he says, "I want you to play [George] W. [Bush]," and you say, "What the f*ck for?" And he convinces you to do it and in hindsight you look back on it and go, "What an amazing experience." People getting together, for not a lot of money in that case, and having an unbelievable communal experience that weíll always be able to look back on. Itís cool.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Michael, why is Gordon Gekko such an icon? Is this Gordon Gekko role the one youíre most proud of your career?

MD: I wouldnít say itís the role Iím most proud of, but the one I get the most recognized [for]. It was a beautifully written role. Iíve always said, "Look, Iíve been in enough pictures, like Josh, where Iíve been in every single scene and really carried the picture," like Charlie Sheen did in the first one and Shia does admirably in this picture. He carries the picture. But you have a very well-written character [in Gordon Gekko], where they talk about you before you come in, and itís what you dream about. And I was fortunate enough, with a lot of good, healthy pushing and prodding and directing by Oliver, to have a good part and deliver. Thatís all you hope for.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What advice do you have for the young people who, in real life, are going to have to pay for the actions of the type of corrupt businessmen we see in the film?

Douglas: Keep your day job. I thought you were going to ask me about your great-grandchildren, because thatís whoís going to be paying.

NYC MOVIE GURU: In the film, itís revealed that Gordo Gekkoís son has died of a drug overdose while Gordon is in jail. Michael, how did that resonate with you given what youíve gone through with your own son, Cameron?

MD: That was all written before Cameron went off the deep end. That was an integral part of the script. And it shows pretty much how much Allan Loeb and Oliver were in synch with that situation with a guy whoíd lost a son and [has] a daughter who wouldnít deal with him.

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