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'Wolf of Wall Street' Screenwriter Terence Winter Reacts To His Oscar Nom And The Film's Detractors

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WOLF OF WALL STREET
Terence Winter is an Oscar nominee for "The Wolf of Wall Street." | Paramount

Controversy be damned because, regardless of all the debate, it was a big morning for "The Wolf of Wall Street." Martin Scorsese's film grabbed five Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Supporting Actor for Jonah Hill, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Screenwriter Terence Winter has been though the awards game before for his many writing accolades for "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire," but his first Oscar nomination comes from adapting Jordan Belfort's first-person account of how he swindled millions from unsuspecting investors into a now-Oscar nominated movie.

We spoke to a very happy Winter early on Thursday morning shortly after learning of his nomination. And, with the success of "Wolf" in the Oscar nominations department, maybe all of that controversy was a good thing. (But Winter still thinks you have "a screw loose" if you think he was glorifying Belfort's behavior.)

I love doing Oscar nomination reaction interviews because everyone is in the best mood.
[Laughs] Yeah, I've had worse mornings.

A lot of prognosticators predicted this, but were you feeling pretty confident?
Well, of course, the more people who say, "Yeah, this is going to happen," the more I say, "Now this is totally jinxed, it's never going to happen." I've been through the awards thing a million times with the Emmys and stuff, so, you never know. You just never know how things are going to shake out. I really do mean this: Once this movie got made and I wrote a movie for Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, that was it for me. I won. Whatever happens is all gravy and that's sort of how I felt about this. I'm thrilled, obviously, but I really tried to put it out of my head.

You've of course won Emmys for things like the "Long Term Parking" episode of "The Sopranos." Did this feel different?
It really hasn't sunk in yet. The fact that it's a movie or a TV show, for me it's the same process. So it really hasn't sunken in. It's apples and oranges, I guess. It's a different animal. I am every bit as thrilled to work in television -- I can't believe anybody's paying me to write anything [laughs], so I'm thrilled to be doing this for a living. So, let's start there.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" has churned up some controversy over the last few weeks. I'm assuming that doesn't matter much to you right now.
You know, controversy, the fact that people were talking about the movie in any way is a good thing. The fact that people think whether it's good or bad is great. And the whole idea of people saying that it glorifies bad behavior -- I mean, anybody who watches this movie and thinks that they want to emulate any of the stuff they see on-screen has got a screw loose, as far as I'm concerned. If you think that's glorifying bad behavior, really, you should talk to somebody about that.

Though, DiCaprio is very charming in this role.
But that's sort of by design. The real Jordan is very charming and that's sort of the whole seduction with that character -- he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. And the whole structure of it was to let Leo seduce you and let Leo charm you into thinking, Oh, wow, these guys are really funny. And you realize at the end that you've been duped, kinda. You're one of the people on the other end of that telephone and it's like, Oh my God, I've been laughing along with these guys and this is not cool. So, that was sort of all by design.

You wrote two parts in this movie -- played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill -- that are also now nominated for Oscars. Do you take pride in that?
You know, honestly, now that you mention, I will take pride in that. But these guys are such great actors and, yes, obviously I had a hand in that and Marty had a hand in that, but their performance and the level of commitment from both of them -- they're just extraordinary. As I was writing the script, I was imagining Leo's voice in my head. And when I actually see Leo do it, I mean, my imagination can't come close to what this guy can do as a performer. Or Jonah, for that matter. They just take it and elevate the material to a point where I could never have imagined that these words would sound that good. But you watch Leo and Jonah do it -- it's really all them. Without those guys, it's really just word on a page. Maybe very entertaining words, but this is a team effort. People always say, "It always starts with the script." I always answer, "Yeah, but it certainly doesn't end there."

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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