Graphic props for the HBO movie Wizard of Lies.
Director: Barry Levinson
I was asked to do a few things for this movie, which tells the story of Bernie Madoff's crimes. In addition to lots of research, I had to produce copies of magazines and newspapers, and various notes and paperwork, including Madoff's indictments.
For the copy of Barron's that we see, I had to reconstruct a version of an actual issue that called into question the seemingly impossible returns that Madoff's fund seemed to generate. I had to track down the original 2001 issue, which is how I learned that these types of periodicals are more ephemeral and less likely to survive than most. I was able to find some bad photocopies of the cover and the first page of the article in the trial evidence. From that, I had to build an entire issue of the paper - charts, ads, articles, the works. We didn't know at the time how much of it would appear in the final edit, so it all had to look good. I also had to do the illustration of DeNiro as Madoff. I didn't have photos of him in the makeup to refer to, so I had to do his likeness by looking at photos of him and Madoff and trying to meld them.
I also had to make copies of an even more ephemeral publication - a little hedge fund industry magazine called Mar Hedge. Again, using bad photocopies included in the trial evidence, I put together an entire magazine - writing headlines, making up ads, and finding body copy that would read correctly in a close-up shot. We never end up seeing it in the final film.
I was also asked to produce copies of the Wall Street Journal from the Black Monday period - October 19, 1987. This turned out to be the hardest task yet. I had actually done illustration work for the WSJ around this time, so I was able to show them the tearsheets to give them an idea of what the paper looked like. But the director wanted the actual papers for a scene where Bernie waves them and slaps them down on a desk. Creating them from scratch wasn't possible. So I emailed my friendsOrlie Kraus and Daniel Smith at the WSJ. I explained the situation and asked if they could help. Orlie was able to send me a photo of part of the front page of one paper, but after a lot of digging, they weren't able to find anything. Because the WSJ archive had been destroyed in 9/11, there were no copies on file before that date. A search of vintage newspaper dealers also turned up nothing. By some miracle, I was able to find a guy in the midwest who had full copies of that entire week. He was a former trader who had saved them because it was such an earth shattering event in the markets. In the end, we see a page or two, briefly, in the darkened background, in a scene with Madoff and his sidekick Frank Dipascali, played by Hank Azaria.