The director's film on stockbroker Jordan Belfort, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is accused of abusing animals during its shoot
A US animal rights group is calling for a boycott of the new Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street, over scenes in which star Leonardo DiCaprio is seen acting alongside a rollerskating chimpanzee.
The organisation, Friends of Animals, says chimp Chance may have been permanently damaged on a psychological level by the experience of acting. Activist Edita Birnkrant is planning to confront Scorsese and DiCaprio over the matter at tomorrow night's Big Apple premiere, according to Variety.
"When The Wolf of Wall Street premieres in NYC on 17 December, there is sure to [be] buzz about whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays real life law-breaking stockbroker Jordan Belfort, will get an Oscar nod," writes the group in a statement. "But what likely won't be talked about is one of DiCaprio's co-stars, a chimpanzee named Chance who portrays his character's pet, and the long-term damage that is done to primates exploited in entertainment."
Birnkrant says the chimp is likely to suffer negative and neurotic behaviours and an inability to socially interact with others of its kind. In an article titled "Animals in Entertainment – Hollywood's Betrayal of Great Apes" in the organisation's Action Line magazine, she details Chance's "life story of exploitation" and describes "the cruel teaching methods" of a circus trainer earlier in his life.
The Wolf of Wall Street, a three-hour black comedy about the notorious financial fraudster Jordan Belfort, was last week named one of the top 10 films of the year by the American Film Institute and is indeed being tipped for Oscars success. The movie's early scenes depict chaotic parties in the offices of Belfort's 1990s Long Island brokerage house Stratton Oakmont, but his real-life partner has denied suggestions a chimpanzee was ever present.
Danny Porush, who is portrayed by Jonah Hill in the movie (albeit under a different name after the broker threatened to sue) told Mother Jones magazine: "There was never a chimpanzee in the office. There were no animals in the office … I would also never abuse an animal in any way."
However, the former president of Stratton Oakmont did admit to eating a fellow broker's goldfish, and hiring little people to mingle at drug-fuelled office parties.
"We never abused [or threw] the midgets in the office; we were friendly to them," he points out in the magazine's article. "There was no physical abuse."
Porush, who was sentenced to 39 months in prison for securities fraud and money laundering in 2004, said Belfort's 2007 memoir (used by screenwriter Terence Winter as the basis of The Wolf of Wall Street's script) was only a loose translation of the reality at Stratton Oakmont between 1988 and 1996. "The book … is a distant relative of the truth, and the film is a distant relative of the book," he said.
Criticism of The Wolf of Wall Street's use of a chimpanzee arrives as Hollywood comes under ever-increasing scrutiny for its employment of animals on screen. The Hollywood Reporter last month published a report which accused industry body The American Humane Association of negligence. The organisation, which issues the coveted "no animals were harmed in the making of this picture" stamp that adorns most Hollywood films, was accused of turning a blind eye to mistreatment of animals on the sets of major films.
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