The Wolf of Wall Street sees Rob Reiner back on the big screen

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NEW YORK CITY—WhenThe Wolf of Wall Street opens on Christmas Day, it will be the first time in 10 years that we’ve seen Rob Reiner in a live-action feature film.

After appearing in 2003’s Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star—yes, it’s been that long since David Spade was relevant—Reiner decided to move away from acting, instead directing and producing multiple efforts. Returning to acting is a shift about which the veteran filmmaker behind This Is Spinal Tap and When Harry Met Sally… is very blunt.

“When Martin Scorsese calls you up, you just do what he says,” the actor says, speaking to the Georgia Straight in a Manhattan hotel. “Basically, he’s one of the great directors of all time. So when he wants you to be in a movie, you don’t ask questions—you just do it.”

The Wolf of Wall Street centres on the real-life story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who rises from dealing penny stocks to owning a multimillion-dollar company while picking up an addiction to both sex and drugs along the way. Belfort’s father, Max, played by Reiner, is brought in to help regulate the absurdities of the company. The office is a virtual playground for lowlifes, with parades of strippers and both over- and under-the-counter drugs.

Reiner, having worked in television during the past year playing Zooey Deschanel’s father on New Girl, was able to jump into his film role with a degree of ease. Added to this is the fact that he finds acting simpler than being behind the camera, especially when you’re working with one of the world’s most respected directors. “For me, I love acting because there’s no responsibility,” Reiner says. “When you’re directing, you’ve got all the headaches of worrying about everything. When you’re acting, you just show up and, in particular when you’re working with somebody like Martin Scorsese, you don’t have to worry: you put yourself in their hands and you’re good.”

Asked what he feels he could learn from the director of classics like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, Reiner points out the way in which Scorsese paints such detailed characters. “The kind of films he makes, he is very bold in that he doesn’t rely on traditional story structure, he really invests all of his efforts on characters and he makes the character be the story,” Reiner says, speaking with a clear sense of awe. “As in the case of Raging Bull or Taxi Driver or The Aviator or The Wolf of Wall Street, he focuses so keenly on the character of Jordan Belfort that he becomes the story.”

So why does he think that Scorsese chose him for his role? “I think it was my looks, basically,” the comedy vet deadpans, not missing a beat. “I’m very handsome myself, so, you know, you have Leo, you need someone who’s as handsome as he is to play his father.”

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