When HBO’s The Wizard of Lies premiered at the end of May, it became clear that America still isn’t over the shock and pain that the largest financial fraud in U.S. history caused. In fact, The Wizard of Lies drew HBO’s largest premiere viewership for an HBO Film in four years.
Bernie Madoff will forever be inscribed in history books as a malevolent mastermind that preyed on those who trusted him. Based on a book of the same name by financial journalist Diana B. Henriques, the film delves into the events leading up to Madoff’s incarceration and explores some of the untold stories of his family. We spoke to Henriques, along with Nathan Darrow (who plays Andrew Madoff in the film) about the roles that the media and Madoff’s family played in the scandal. Read our exclusive interviews below, and stream The Wizard of Lies today.
Diana B. Henriques
In the film there’s a strong focus on the media’s role in the telling of the Madoff story. The media reported the facts of the case, but was also quite aggressive in painting a picture of the rest of the family. How much do you think the media should be involved in the telling of these stories?
Well, I’ve been covering white collar crime for a long, long time. And it struck me immediately how unusual the media coverage of this case was. Because typically in white collar crime cases, the families are left alone. I mean you never hear about the insider trader’s wife, you never hear about the embezzler’s husband. The families have typically, going back decades and decades and decades, been left alone.
So this was a dramatic departure from that common tradition, and I can only attribute it to the times. The financial crisis of 2008, had left an entire nation that had trusted Wall Street, feeling ripped off. Then here is this man that everyone trusted, who ripped them off. I think he became a lightning rod for a great deal of the anger in the country that was generated by the financial crisis, and I think that recalibrated the intensity of the media’s interest in the story.
So there’s a certain truth to what he says in the film that he was “the scapegoat…”
Well, there was some truth that he was the scapegoat for the financial crisis. Bernie had nothing to do with causing the financial crisis. His Ponzi scheme began long before the financial crisis began, and if he had been able to pull it off, it would have continued. It had survived many financial crises including 1987, 1998, the dot com crash in 2000. Bernie’s fraud had survived all of those, so Bernie really had nothing to do with causing the 2008 crisis. He had nothing to do with bringing it about. So in a way, he is right, that to blame him for the financial crisis of 2008 is unfair. He is innocent of that charge. That is the one thing I can exonerate him for.
Nathan Darrow as Andrew Madoff
The film touches a lot on the relationship between fathers and sons. There’s a lot to dig into there and there’s a lot to be said about the way that Bernie treated his sons. How did you get into the skin of that relationship?
I think we’re touching a bit on relationships between parents and children, but fathers and sons in particular definitely have their own dynamic. Most of us come to the point when we realize our parents are actually people—they’re flawed, confused, messed up people—and for these brothers that realization happens in an afternoon. These two boys had invested so much, not just in their father, but also in this image of who he was. He was at the top of an industry that at the time in the United States most people revered.
What’s interesting too is that throughout the entire film, the sons are referred to as “boys,” by both their mother and their father.
Oh, that’s a good catch!
Yes, so it doesn’t seem like even their parents really see them as adults and that obviously plays into their relationships as well.
Absolutely. Exploring these relationships in the film was definitely interesting.