Gekko is good for return of Wall Street’s bad boy
Just like his first love, Gordon Gekko never sleeps. One of the most enduring anti-heroes of cinema’s past two decades, the super rich trader from Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street is likely to return as a far less parochial figure in the sequel now being finalised.
“Wall Street was New York-centric. Today the markets are much more global, hence the title of the new film, Money Never Sleeps,” says Ed Pressman, the producer of both films, as well as the likes of Reversal of Fortune, Thank You For Smoking and Conan the Barbarian.
“The new film will be based in New York, in London, in the United Arab Emirates and in an Asian country. We’ve pretty well worked out the inter-personal relationships between the characters. We’re now talking about the business events.”
Over the past few months, those talks involved Pressman and Lolita screenwriter Stephen Schiff visiting London and meeting the likes of billionaire Vincent Tchenguiz.
“We are talking to Vincent to see how people behave in this era,” the producer adds, though Tchenguiz is not the new Gekko, again to be played by Michael Douglas.
“Originally, there was no one individual who Gekko was modelled on,” he adds. “But Gekko was partly (Michael) Milken.”
Last time we saw him, Gekko ruled Wall Street and made billions through insider trading. In the real world, Michael Milken, best known as the “Junk Bond King” of the 1980s, was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud in 1989 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison (he served less than two). Since then he has devoted much of his time and money to charity.
And Milken still seems comparable to the modern Gekko who, we will learn, has been to prison but, a free man for the past eight years, will return to our screens as a more outwardly altruistic figure though, as Pressman admits, “a leopard doesn’t change its spots, despite appearances”. So Gekko will be a philanthropist, then? “Now that’s a good idea,” he smiles, less than cryptically.
If the Gekko character seems settled, it is fair to say that nobody quite predicted how well he would go down last time.
Wall Street was really a film about Bud Fox, a young ambitious stockbroker played by Charlie Sheen (who may or may not return in the sequel) whom Gekko took under his wing. Having been corrupted by Gekko, Fox eventually betrays his mentor to arch-rival Sir Larry Wildman (played by Terence Stamp and modelled, Pressman says, on James Goldsmith) before grassing Gekko up to the authorities.
Even so, actual Wall Street traders saw Gekko as the hero. “That’s his appeal,” Pressman says. “Gekko is larger than life. His appetites are large. The audience enjoys a vicarious pleasure of seeing a world they would never be part of. In a funny way Wall Street was like The Godfather — in that the real mob began dressing and behaving like characters in the movie. After Wall Street people started wearing suspenders (braces) like Michael.”
Douglas’ Gekko is the brand in his own right — and one that is likely to sell more these days with business enjoying a wider audience than 20 years ago.
Schiff says: “The first film was a moderate hit at the time (it took about $US60 million at the box office and cost $US16 million), but Gekko became a household name.”