When Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio set out to make a film about the infamous Jordan Belfort, they were met by rejection. Major studio after major studio turned them down, fearing the controversial story and R-Rating wouldn’t sit well with audiences.
The pair had to find other ways to fund the film, turning to Red Granite Pictures. Many believed the company to be a start-up, having made just one film previously, but somehow they gave the duo $100 million to make The Wolf of Wall Street.
It has since been alleged that the company managed to raise the money by diverting state funding from the Malaysian government into the film; money that was meant to be spent spurring on local economic development rather than on Hollywood movies.
According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, the money was supposed to go into 1MDB, a state fund set up by the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, to boost the local economy.
However, 1MDB passed the money to Red Granite Picture, a company controlled by Razack’s stepson, Riza Aziz.
1MDB appear to be at the centre of various controversies, and are reportedly funding Jho Low - a multimillion-dollar ‘party boy’, widely thought to have bought Picasso’s Women of Algiers for $179 million last May, and a friend of Aziz.
The state fund is now the centre of numerous investigations with the FBI, one of which has led to an investigation into Goldman Sachs. According to the New York Post, the US, UK, and France, as well as two other countries, are looking into evidence of money laundering.
DiCaprio and Scorsese themselves are not implicated in any sort of fraud, as any money diverted from 1MDB to Red Granite Productions was before their involvement with the film.
However, the Journal does note how the extravagant spending by the Malaysian investors managed to raise a few eyebrows in Hollywood.
For example, before shooting began on The Wolf of Wall Street, Red Granite reportedly put on an extravagant birthday party for DiCaprio which saw the actor gifted Marlon Brando’s best actor Oscar for On the Waterfront, estimated to have cost $600,000.
According to the Journal, on 31 December 2012, the company put on a New Year’s eve festival, which saw Aziz and Low joined by DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Jamie Foxx, all of whom flew from Australia to Las Vegas to celebrate.
The report also details how, six months later, DiCaprio, Low and Aziz attended the Brazilian world cup, spending their time on a 482-foot yacht owned by Sheikh Mansour, deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.
A spokesperson for 1MDB told the Journal that the report “will not affect our ability to move forward with the exciting projects Red Granite is developing”. The company has since denied any association with Re Granite: “1MDB has never invested in or transferred funds to Red Granite Pictures, whether directly or via intermediaries. Any statement to the contrary is false,” a spokesperson said.
Since The Wolf of Wall Street, the company funded Dumb and Dumber To, the sequel Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ 1994 comedy.
Meanwhile, The Wolf of Wall Street made headlines for apparently considering Olivia Wilde ‘too old’ for the role Margot Robbie eventually took.
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