Learning behind the Scenes Film Production - Wall Street

In the room there is an enormous table under eerie lighting with people screaming about the “moral hazards” of saving the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The table is actually in the executive conference room of MetLife, the lighting comes from lamps suspended from helium balloons and the shouting comes from actors Frank Langella, Josh Brolin, and Eli Wallach. This is a scene from the movie Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, a sequel to the 1987 hit Wall Street. Much can be learned behind the scenes about how Hollywood movies are made.

In 2005, Fortune magazine made its cover that of Gordon Gekko, the fictitious villain portrayed by Michael Douglas in the original film Wall Street. Edward Pressman, producer of Wall Street, saw the cover and decided that if Gekko was still the media’s iconic image of greed, then a sequel was worth pursuing.

Pressman hoped to interest Twentieth Century Fox in the project, but found that getting a movie made when the main character is a villain is difficult to do. It took four years to get a script that Fox accepted. After successfully recruiting former Wall Street players Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas, Pressman was able to get Fox to finance the sequel.

The Federal Reserve scenes were shot midway through the shooting schedule. The retakes seemed endless, with characters repeating the exact same lines and extras hitting the same marks over and over. There was a grandfather clock in the boardroom scene that had to be reset to the exact same time for each new take. Oliver Stone worked with an army of professional technicians, hair stylists, make-up artists, carpenters, camera operators and many more crew members to perfect the illusion.

Hollywood movies are known for their over-the-top budgets, but Fox pinched pennies when it came to the film’s budget. The studio executives even tried to reduce the salaries of the major actors. Fox could ask that scenes be cut if shooting went over budget, so Stone was under pressure to keep to a strict schedule. He and his assistant directors worked tirelessly, even putting in fourteen hour days to keep the film on schedule. Stone successfully completed the movie within a day of the targeted end date.

At club SPiN[JR1] , owned by Susan Sarandon who also stars in Wall Street 2, the wrap party is in full swing. Cast and crew alike stand around the TV screen watching clips of the movie. For many, this is their first chance to see Stone’s finished product. Loud cheers are heard by the gathered crowd and Stone is the hero of the evening. The atmosphere is festive at SPiN and the party continues throughout the night.

From the moment they are green-lighted, studio movies have a built-in release date. Before the September 24, 2010 opening of Wall Street 2, Fox was already working on the advertising and marketing campaign. Fox invested almost $100 million in the production. The original Wall Street did much better at earning acclaim than it did earning actual money. Fox only made about $20.2 million at the American box office. The problem is that movies with complex issues, such as the greed in Wall Street, do not attract the lucrative teenage audience. Fox made a $100 million gamble that the post-summer release date of Wall Street 2 would draw an adult audience.