The daughter of a man linked to the discredited financial schemes depicted in Oscar-tipped drama The Wolf of Wall Street has attacked the film's director, Martin Scorsese, and its star Leonardo DiCaprio, for glamorising a lifestyle of "fun sexcapades and coke binges".
Christina McDowell, whose father, Tom Prousalis, was a business associate of Jordan Belfort, the titular crooked stockbroker portrayed by DiCaprio in the film, accused her targets of "exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behaviour" in an open letter published in LA Weekly. McDowell, who says she was forced to change her name after discovering her father had stolen her identity to launder money prior to his eventual incarceration for financial fraud, says The Wolf of Wall Street amounts to a "reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals".
She continues: "Did you think about the cultural message you'd be sending when you decided to make this film? You have successfully aligned yourself with an accomplished criminal, a guy [Belfort] who still hasn't made full restitution to his victims … And don't even get me started on the incomprehensible way in which your film degrades women, the misogynistic, ass-backwards message you endorse to younger generations of men."
McDowell reveals her father's crimes left her facing debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars. "I couch surfed for two years, sometimes dressing out of my car and stealing pieces of salami out of my boyfriends' refrigerators in the middle of the night, because I was so hungry and so ashamed that I couldn't feed myself," she writes. "Tips at the restaurant weren't cutting it. It's a pretty confusing experience to go from flying private with Dad to an evening where he's begging you for a piece of your paycheck so he can buy food for dinner."
McDowell signs off by revealing her father is now doing business with the Albanian government, and is reputedly remarried to a 30-year-old Albanian translator. "They always, always land on their feet," she complains.
The open letter emerged as it was revealed that Belfort is set to benefit from the newfound notoriety heaped upon him by Scorsese's film with a new reality-TV show. The former stockbroker, who now works as a motivational speaker and financial guru in California, could be in line for a series in which he helps people who have hit rock bottom rebuild their lives, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The Wolf of Wall Street has emerged as an awards-season contender, and already has two Golden Globes nominations in the bag. But the film has been hit with a raft of negative publicity in recent weeks amid suggestions it could be too controversial to win the hearts of older Oscars voters. DiCaprio and Scorsese have faced criticism from an animal rights group concerned about the use of a live chimp in one of the scenes of Wall Street excess.
More on The Wolf of Wall Street
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Emmanuel Huybrechts