Scorsese (Sadly) Abandons Film for Digital as He Readies “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Scorsese (Sadly) Abandons Film for Digital as He Readies “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Leonardo DiCaprio will play former stockbroker Jordan Belfort (left) in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street"
(From left: Courtesy; AFP/Getty Images)

An indefatigable film preservationist and advocate of shooting on film, Martin Scorsese is likely to deploy the digital format on his future movies. Having shot the 3D “Hugo” digitally – the exquisite mix of cool and mellow tones won Robert Richardson the Best Cinematography Oscar – Scorsese has elected to do the same on his next picture, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

This was confirmed by his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker in an interview with Empire’s Damon Wise following a panel on film restoration at the current Edinburgh International Film Festival. Inevitably, the decision to abandon film was made with regret. “It would appear that we’ve lost the battle,” Schoonmaker said. “I think Marty just feels it’s unfortunately over, and there’s been no bigger champion of film than him.”

“It’s a very bittersweet thing to be watching films with him now that are on film,” she continued. “We’re cherishing every moment of it. The number of prints that are now being made for release has just gone down, and it would appear that the theaters have converted so quickly to digital.”

Scorsese’s opting for digital, then, would appear to be less of an aesthetic choice than one prompted by the realities of exhibition. Many would argue that digital cinematography still can’t capture the range of hues and iridescence common to 35mm (or even 16mm) cinematography.

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” which will be shot in 2D since it’s an adult drama, begins production in August. It has been adapted by Terence Winter (“The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire”) from the former stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s memoir of his criminal rampage through Wall Street in the 1990s.

Belfort founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, which functioned as a boiler room that was involved in stock issues amounting to more than $1 billion, including an equity raising for Steve Madden’s footwear company. In 1998, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering. He served 22 months in prison for a microcap stock fraud scam resulting in investor losses of some $200 million. Ben Younger’s independent movie “Boiler Room” (2000), about a young broker (Giovanni Ribisi) working at a chop shop brokerage running a “pump and dump,” was inspired by the case.

Now 49 and a fully signed-up soccer dad, Belfort – who lived an excessive prostitutes-and-quaaludes lifestyle at the height of his wealth – currently works as writer and ethically-oriented motivational speaker and speaks repentantly of his crimes.

Given Leonard DiCaprio’s casting as Belfort, “The Wolf of Wall Street” sounds analogous, at least as a large-canvas cautionary fable, to Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator.” The cast of the new movie also includes Cristin Miliati as Belfort’s first wife Denise, an Italian-American hairdresser, and Margot Robbie as his second wife Nadine, a British-born Miller Lite beer model, after whom he named the 50-meter yacht he sank in the Mediterranean. There are key parts, too, for Jean Dudardin, Jonah Hill, and Rob Reiner.

It’s coming to a digitally equipped theater near you in 2013.