If you've braved the box office crowds to catch a screening of "The Wolf of Wall Street," you were met with three hours of booze, drugs, hookers, drugs, orgies, drugs, money falling from the sky (sometimes literally) and more drugs. Whether you found the showing offensive, hilarious, or something in between, however, it's very likely that you wondered how Leonardo DiCaprio was able to depict the frequent drug-induced highs of his character, real-life former stockbroker Jordan Belfort.
Belfort's drugs of choice were cocaine and Quaaludes, though the character samples from a wide spectrum of narcotics. While cocaine is depicted in film relatively often, Quaaludes, a sedative drug with hypnotic properties, are not as common to the screen. Used to treat insomnia, the drug was widely abused in the 1970s and '80s, and Belfort certainly made a large dent in that pill pool.
How could DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, who plays Belfort's right–hand man Donnie Azoff, mimic the symptoms of these hard drugs? They had some darn good teachers.
"A lot of it came from me really filming Jordan, talking to me about what Quaaludes were like," DiCaprio said of his educated portrayal of a Quaalude high during a press conference for "The Wolf of Wall Street." "I had him rolling around on the floor for me and he was very helpful with that, but a lot of the research that I did really came from watching this one video on loop. It’s on YouTube, it’s called “The Drunkest Man In The World” and it’s a man trying to get a beer, but he’s rolling around the floor for hours. That was a huge inspiration for me.”
DiCaprio also met with Belfort at home, and asked him to explain exactly what it felt like to be "The Wolf" -- especially one under the influence of enough sedatives to bring down a horse. "He was incredibly beneficial for me as an actor," DiCaprio noted about Belfort's cooperation. "He would divulge the most embarrassing things about his life because he looked at it as a part of his past."
While Belfort was perhaps the best coach for DiCaprio, director Martin Scorsese also provided the actors with a drug expert on set, who was ready to answer the actors' questions about various drug symptoms.
"Because we were on these really strong Quaaludes, we had a drug expert and I would ask a lot of questions about what the drug felt like," Hill recalled in an interview with Vibe. "The way she expressed it about being on that many Quaaludes is that your finger feels like it weighs 10 pounds. So I imagined that there was a tiny version of myself actually in my body having to move around dead weight."
For many, the most memorable scene of the lengthy movie is one in which DiCaprio and Hill's characters have accidentally overdosed on Quaaludes, thinking that the expired pills had lost their potency. Apparently, this scene holds equally valuable meaning to the actors. "It was physically exhausting; it took a week to shoot ... I can tell you that I have never been so proud of a performance in a movie," Hill said of the scene which DiCaprio has referred to as "a small film within the film."
As for the mass amounts of cocaine that DiCaprio's character, and many others, used in the film? "It’s baby vitamins. Vitamin B," the actor confessed during the Manhattan press conference for the film.
So, drug experts, weak vitamins, interviews with Belfort himself, and an embarrassing YouTube video were the real fuel behind the extreme on–screen drug binges? Makes sense.