Oliver Stone has mellowed a bit over the past few years. When he used to come to Japan in the 1990s to promote his films, he’d always say that the CIA and mainstream media were out to get him. Now he is content to look back on the 1980s and trace a link between that decade and the financial upheaval of 2008 – a theme he explores in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” the sequel to his 1987 film “Wall Street.”
The original film starred Michael Douglas as corporate raider Gordon Gekko, a role that won him an Academy Award for best actor and cemented the line “Greed is good” in the popular vernacular. “Now, greed is legal,” said Stone, 64, echoing another line uttered by Gekko (Douglas once again) in the new movie. “The big players now are not guys like Gekko, but major banks and hedge funds.”
The sequel starts in 2001 after Gekko is released from prison for insider trading. Then it fast-forwards to the summer of 2008 as the former corporate raider -- now an author -- wants back in the game. He finds a new young apprentice in his estranged daughter’s fiance, played by Shia LeBeouf, 23, whose character is an investment analyst. The story involves the financial meltdown of one firm, and the circling of the vultures led by another big player (loosely modeled on investment bank Goldman Sachs). Gekko finds himself on the sidelines, but is he still a manipulator?
“Does he regret his previous life? Or is he still just doing what’s best for him? Audiences can judge for themselves whether or not he has become a good guy,” said Stone, who has a cameo role in the film.
Stone – a three-time Oscar winner for “Midnight Express,” “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July” – said his inspiration for picking up the story after 23 years was the 2008 economic meltdown. “The 1980s were a very prosperous time. It was a time where relaxed credit policies really started to come in vogue. I wanted to depict the connection between that time and the recent meltdown.”
Stone is no stranger to the financial canyons of Wall Street – his late father used to work for a brokerage firm. “Back in his day, investment banks were there to manage money for clients, but that role got lost somewhere along the way.” In preparing for the sequel, Stone said his research showed him that in 2008, finance companies made 47% of the profits in America and within those finance companies, up to 70% were made for themselves, with huge bonuses being paid out. “The money got so big. I remember hearing guys on Wall Street say, ‘It’s just a billion-dollar hedge fund.’ That’s unbelievable arrogance.”
Of "Wall Street" newcomers LeBeouf and British actress Carey Mulligan, who plays Gekko’s daughter, Stone said, “I met people on Wall Street exactly like them. They’re hungry and they are idealists. With Carrie, I was concerned at first if she could pull off an American accent. But that element also allowed her to occupy her role as someone who is not a typical American.”
“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” opens in Japan on Feb 14.© Japan Today