That’s the verdict of “Wall Street” screenwriter Stanley Weiser, who likened Madoff to a “serial killer” in an interview with Newsweek -- and declared the current financial mess’ human toll is far worse than the pain wrought by the “greed is good” mentality of the 1980s.
“So who are the villains now? Well, there's [Bernard] Madoff, but he's more like a serial killer. He destroyed people's lives,” Weiser said.
The Oliver Stone-directed "Wall Street," Weiser added, “was about a cheat who, basically, hurt people -- but in a collateral way, whereas, the people now have caused pain that is direct and much greater.”
That’s a sobering assessment from a man tuned in enough to create a cultural touchstone in Gekko, the fictional character who became a very real symbol of greed gone wild.
Popular culture is struggling with how to tackle the economic catastrophe, which seems beyond the realm of fiction – it’s a disaster movie that reaches new levels of destruction daily. “Smash-Me-Bernie” dolls, late night talk show gallows humor and the obligatory ripped-from-the-headlines “Law and Order” episode don’t measure up as much of a response given the enormity of the crisis.
Weiser told Newsweek Madoff is too “odious and reprehensible” a figure to make a movie about – but he’d consider penning a film about Harry Markopoulos, the financial Cassandra whose warnings about the $50 billion Ponzi schemer were reportedly ignored by the SEC.
Meanwhile, a “Wall Street” sequel, in which Michael Douglas’ Gekko character is sprung from prison after more than two decades, is said to be in the works, though Weiser isn’t involved.
So in reel life, Gekko will return to a tumultuous financial world, created in part by the greed he epitomized. In real life, Madoff, hopefully, will never see the light of day again.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.