Back in January 2009, just weeks after the Bernie Madoff fraud unraveled, John Friedman of the WSJ asked an interesting question: Who will play Bernie Madoff in the inevitable movie?
Friedman suggested several logical actors for the role, including Dustin Hoffman (who I think bears a pretty strong resemblance to Madoff). Others on Friedman's list included Albert Finney, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas.
Nearly six years later, HBO is finally proceeding with a film on the Madoff scandal based on Wizard of Lies, a book by NYT reporter, Diana B. Henriques. And starring in the role of Bernie Madoff is ... none of the above! Instead, Bernie Madoff will be played by another inspired selection: Robert De Niro. Let's take a look:
Wizard of Lies will also star Michelle Pfeiffer in the role of Ruth Madoff, Bernard Madoff's wife, and will be directed and executive produced by Barry Levinson. Interestingly, Henriques also managed to score a part in the movie based on her book - playing herself. On her Facebook page, Henriques writes that in June she was invited to have coffee with De Niro:
We met at a quiet hotel cafe in Manhattan. For more than two hours, I fielded his long docket of memory-testing questions about Madoff - his mannerisms, his laugh, his sense of humor, his relative closeness to his two sons, etc, etc.
Okay, I said to myself, as he kissed my cheek over our farewell handshake. That's my pixie dust for the summer. I returned to speculating about who might be cast to play my character in the evolving script.
Fast forward a few weeks to a bucolic farmer's market in the Champlain Islands in Vermont. Cell phone rings. It's a Tribeca executive: Would I consider auditioning to play myself? Wait! What??
You should read Henriques great account of how she ended up doing a screen test with Robert De Niro here, but she says it ended when DeNiro gave her his patented smirk and said, "Ya got the part, kid."