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The True Story Behind 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! December 27, 2013 at 2:49PM

TIME has fact-checked Jordan Belfort's memoir "The Wolf of Wall Street" against Scorsese's raucous new comedy--and for the most part, what you see in movie is the real story. Highlights are here.
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Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street"

TIME has fact-checked Jordan Belfort's memoir "The Wolf of Wall Street" against Scorsese's raucous new comedy--and for the most part, what you see in movie is the real story. Or, at any rate, the story according to Belfort, who details his wildly excessive drug use, promiscuous sex and stock market manipulation in his 2007 autobiography. Highlights from the TIME story below.

Belfort's first boss told him the keys to success were masturbation, cocaine and hookers.

Ruling: Fact

According to the book, a broker named Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) gave him this advice early on in his career.

Belfort and his partner owned shares of a risky stock, had their brokers at Stratton Oakmont brokerage aggressively sell the stock to inflate the price. They then sold the stock themselves to turn a profit.

Ruling: Fact

Belfort and Danny Porush (called Donnie Azoff in the film and portrayed by Jonah Hill) utilized this age-old pump-and-dump scheme to get rich quick after graduating from scamming middle-class people into buying worthless penny stocks at a 50 percent commission.

The driving on quaaludes scene.

Ruling: Mostly fact

It was a Mercedes, not a Lamborghini. But the rest is true to Belfort’s memoir.

He crashed a helicopter in his front yard while high.

Ruling: Fact

On a related note, he also did at least attempt to sober up in real life.

He sank a yacht in Italy.

Ruling: Fact

And the yacht used to belong to Coco Chanel.

Read the full story here. Our review of the film is here.

This article is related to: News, The Wolf of Wall Street , Martin Scorsese


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.