The HBO biopic Wizard of Lies, which premieres tomorrow, stars Robert De Niro as Bernard L. Madoff, the convicted financier who organized the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, worth $64.8 billion on paper.
The film is based on the 2011 book Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, authored by New York Times reporter Diana B. Henriques, who interviewed Madoff in his North Carolina prison in addition to exchanging written correspondence.
A memorable, slightly difficult to watch sequence focuses on the plight of the targets of the scheme-real-world victims ranged from workers of modest means to wealthy hedge fund investors-but the members of the Madoff family are kept at the fore, with Wizard of Lies becoming a stark, cold meditation on how the deed produced ripples of alienation, emotional dysfunction and death.
Henriques appears in the film as herself, interviewing a subdued Madoff in prison and serving as a stand-in for the audience.
Considering the scope of the case, the film’s brevity leaves questions unanswered: How many others were in the know? How did the victims of Madoff ultimately fare? What changes did the case bring to their worldview?
Several additional Madoff employees were implicated in the case, and arbitrage trader David Krugel would testify as part of a guilty plea that he had started falsifying documents for the company during the early ’70s. Though Madoff would assert that he acted alone, such a pronouncement was ultimately contradicted by the acts and testimony of Frank DiPascali Jr., as played in the film by Hank Azaria, an employee who was at the forefront of falsifying trade information via computer technology.