In 1988, Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, whose iconic line, ‘Greed is good,’ made the character a rock star of financial titans. Twenty-three years later, Douglas is back as Gekko in the movie’s sequel. Both films were directed by three-time Academy Award-winner Oliver Stone.
After serving time for securities fraud, Gordon Gekko is released from a Federal Corrections Facility. No longer king of Wall Street, Gekko is alone, not even his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) is there to greet him.
Winnie’s boyfriend Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) is a smart young trader at Keller Zabel. She supports his drive to invest in green energy. When his corporation fails Jake, who is deeply in debt, attends a lecture at Fordham University given by Gordon Gekko, who is promoting his new book Is Greed Good? Unbeknownst to Winnie, Jake seeks out Gekko and offers to help facilitate a meeting with Winnie if he can help him get out of his financial mess.
What was it about this sequel that made you want to play the role again?
This is an even more interesting time to explore this world than the original Wall Street. Of all the parts I’ve played, Gekko is the one people approach me about the most. They get a kick out of Gekko – which is always a surprise to me because he was a true villain.
Wall Street is theatre. People love stories about power; people are seduced by power. So I think that’s a reason Gekko and the film Wall Street have endured all these years. This time around was fun because there was more of an arc for Gekko to go [through]. I think we were all a little concerned because of the preconception of Gordon and that whole power thing.
If you strip all that away will people be interested? On the other hand, it was nice to have much more of an arc to play, and to see how soulful and mellow Oliver’s gotten in his old age!
What was it like being in New York City again?
When I saw the picture for the first time, I thought New York looked beautiful. I thought, ‘Wow, this is sexy, this is a beautiful, seductive, gorgeous looking city. If you’re going to put this witches’ brew together, then this is an awfully nice cauldron to have it in.
What research did you do for this?
That’s the one area where Oliver was making us all crazy as we began shooting, in terms of getting into the detail. I think he gets a particular enjoyment out of satisfying the 70 people who possibly understand the entire script!
The first picture did well, but the kind of life that this has taken on is a unique phenomenon between the movie and the world to where it’s at today.
You have a famous dad, Kirk Douglas, is there something that he taught you that made a difference in your career?
Just being able to watch how he conducted himself. This is a business where as a kid you can go and visit your mom and dad on the set, at work, so you get to see at an early age what your mother or your father do. So I think that’s part of it, and seeing people with their own insecurities and understanding that.
I think the disadvantage is that I don’t ever get any credit, because it’s just assumed that because of my old man’s success I got an opening into the business. But I feel fortunate to have my dad still around to be able to see this.
In the first movie Gordon Gekko is motivated by money, what motivates you?
A good part, a good movie; just quality wherever you can find it – and a little financial security!
Gordon Gekko is such an iconic figure, why do you think that is? Is it the role that you are most proud of in your career?
I wouldn’t say it’s the role I’m most proud of, it’s probably the one I get recognized with. It was a beautifully written role. I’ve always said, ‘I’ve had enough pictures where I’ve been in every single scene and carried the picture,’ like Charlie Sheen did in the Wall Street, and Shia does admirably in this picture.
With Gekko you have a very well written character, they talk about you before you come in – it’s what you dream about as an actor. I was fortunate enough with a lot of good, healthy pushing and prodding and directing by Oliver to have a good part and to deliver it.
Your situation has taken precedence over everything, even this movie. You went public with your throat cancer, and everyone wants to know how you are feeling?
I’m doing fine, my doctors are optimistic and I’m optimistic. Obviously the combination of radiation every day and chemo limits a full day. Life goes on, this is just another chapter. I’ve had a pretty good run of it. I’m just taking it a day at a time, trying to keep up with the program and rest.
This is a pretty bad year, but it’s going to be topped off with a really good movie. I’m very proud of the picture.