The Fascinating True Story Behind The Wolf Of Wall Street

It's a well-known fact that Martin Scorsese's acclaimed "The Wolf of Wall Street," which received five Oscar nominations including one for Best Adapted Screenplay, is based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, the stockbroker played by Leonardo DiCaprio. He's not what you would call a hero: in fact, the whole movie is arguably told from the villain's perspective.

Terence Winter handled the writing chores, and he and Scorsese had already framed an entire HBO series, "Boardwalk Empire," around a gangster named Nucky Thompson. Scorsese also had plenty of experience adapting the biographies of other criminals. We recently examined the true-life origins of "Goodfellas," for example, and he's made other mob movies like "Casino" and "The Irishman," based on other nonfiction books.

In "The Wolf of Wall Street," Scorsese and Winter centered the narrative on the ringleader of a pump-and-dump circus called Stratton Oakmont, where sex, drugs, dwarf-tossing, and financial fraud were the order of the day. Just how much of the movie was true, though, and how much of it was a Hollywood embellishment?

Jonah Hill's Character was Based on Danny Porush

In "The Wolf of Wall Street," Jonah Hill plays a character named Donnie Azoff, but he's loosely based on a real person, Danny Porush, who was Belfort's business partner and the co-founder of Stratton Oakmont. According to Mother Jones (by way of History vs. Hollywood), Porush has disputed some aspects of "The Wolf of Wall Street," such as the claim that Belfort was ever nicknamed "wolf" or that the office ever brought in a chimpanzee or did any dwarf-tossing at its debauchery-filled parties.

Little people are said to have attended one party, but Belfort's own memoir only says they floated the idea of tossing them. The scene where Belfort and Donnie/Danny first meet also played out differently in real life.

Instead of meeting at a restaurant — where Donnie is shown asking to see Belfort's $72,000 pay stub — they were introduced through Porush's wife, who used to ride the bus with Belfort before she realized they lived in the same building. Interestingly, the slimy stockbroker was at least enough of a gentleman to regularly offer her his seat.

She really was related to Porush. Though he called Belfort's book "a distant relative of the truth," Porush himself married his own first cousin, so that part is true, as is the part where the movie shows him swallowing a goldfish and the part where they paid an employee $10,000 to shave her head, so she could get breast implants.

Belafort Did Do Drugs and Had a Lot of Other Problems

Matthew McConaughey's character, Mark Hanna, was a real person, though McConaughey revealed in a personal video on his official verified Twitter account (via Indiewire) that the character's chest-thumping chant was born of a warm-up ritual that he himself did before every take, just to get in the zone as an actor.

Biography.com reveals that Belfort started selling stocks in 1987. That's the same year that Oliver Stone's "Wall Street," with its famous quote, "Greed is good," hit theaters. Belfort and his crooked brokerage firm also reportedly helped inspire the 2000 film "Boiler Room," starring Giovanni Ribisi, Nia Long, Vin Diesel, and Ben Affleck.

In prison, Belfort's cellmate was Tommy Chong, one half of the comedy duo, Cheech and Chong. It's true that Belfort used to give speeches to his employees with a microphone, which prepared him for his life as an ex-convict turned motivational speaker. As seen in the movie, he did sink his yacht in a storm, and he did sink his own marriage by hitting his wife and driving his car through the garage door with his 3-year-old child in front.

He also had a problem with cocaine, Quaaludes, and other drugs, and this really did result in him crashing a helicopter and his car. However, it was a Mercedes and not a white Lamborghini, as depicted in the movie. At the very beginning of "The Wolf of Wall Street," we see Belfort's Ferrari casually change colors from red to white as he's driving and narrating, and it seems the movie took a similar approach to certain details.