The Real Wolf of Wall Street: Fact or Fiction

Spoiler alert: If you’re yet to see what – in my opinion – is one of the best movies of the year, then this article will no doubt spoil the entire Wolf of Wall Street movie for you. Should you still read it? 100%.

Here at Wall Street Survivor, we’ve been eagerly awaiting this Scorsese masterpiece since previews started hitting YouTube this past summer. Three hours of sex, drugs, and rock and roll stocks…what else could you ask for?

I think it’s safe to say that the Wolf of Wall Street definitely lived up to the hype, but did it live up to the actual story?

Wolf of wall street

From all the Quaalude-popping and helicopter-crashing and yacht-sinking that takes place in the movie, it’s easy to assume that Scorsese’s adaptation of the real story is an extremely overly exaggerated one.

But apparently the real Jordan Belfort, a 90s stockbroker who conned his way into millions of dollars and a subsequent drug problem, did lead an extravagant lifestyle in line with the extremes presented in the film. Belfort told his story in a 2007 memoir that bears the same name as the film. He also wrote a sequel entitled Catching the Wolf of Wall Street.

Belfort’s partner Danny Porush, brilliantly played by Jonah Hill, seems to think otherwise, saying:

“The book…is a distant relative of the truth, and the film is a distant relative of the book.”


Not surprising Belfort and Porush don’t see eye-to-eye on how their broker days played out. The two haven’t spoken to each other in years. Which leads us to #1 in our list of …

The REAL Wolf of Wall Street – Fact or Fiction: 

(Info source: Time’s The Wolf of Wall Street: The True Story)

1) Belfort tried to save his partner from incriminating himself: FICTION

In the movie, Belfort slides over an inconspicuous note to his partner Porush that reads “I’m wearing a wire. Don’t incriminate yourself.” In reality, Belfort wasn’t that nice. He ratted out many of his co-workers, including Porush, and spent only two years in prison because of it.

2) Belfort’s first day as a stockbroker was October 19, 1987 (Black Monday): FACT

The first day after Belfort passed his Series 7 and got his broker’s license, the stock market crashed, falling 500 points (nearly a quarter of its overall value). The firm he worked for subsequently closed down.

3) Belfort sold penny stocks he himself owned to his clients: FACT

Belfort started making his money by selling rather crappy penny stocks to lower-to-middle income clients. He then up’d the ante, and started selling penny stocks to the rich, owning a big portion of those same stocks. He’d pull the classic pump-and-dump: pump up the price of a stock by selling it to the masses, and then sell (or “dump”) his shares at a huge profit, causing the price to plummet and all those people to lose their investments.

4) He crashed his Lamborghini while high on Quaaludes: FICTION

It was a Mercedes.

5) He sunk a yacht in Italy: FACT

And it belonged to Coco Chanel.

6) Belfort’s company, Stratton Oakmont, took Steve Madden public: FACT

Yup, Stratton Oakmont orchestrated the Steve Madden Initial Public Offering (IPO). Belfort and Porush also owned a ton of the stock and purposefully drove up the price. Super illegal.

7) Belfort laundered his money into Swiss banks using in-laws: FACT

His wife’s mother helped him smuggle money into Switzerland. We don’t believe they actually strapped cash to her body.

8) Belfort has gone on to become a successful motivational “sales” speaker: FACT

The last scene of the movie alludes to a new path for our protagonist, one where he’ll teach people how to do what he does best: sales. This is true. After Belfort served his prison sentence, he started a new career as a motivational speaker, teaching people the art of selling. It seems like an even newer career path is on the horizon for the real Wolf of Wall Street, as he’s currently in talks for his very own reality show.

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