Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nobody Knows What It's Like To Be the Bad Man

For every movie viewer who envies James Bond, there's a sizable number who wishes he or she could be one of the villains Bond thwarts. After all, these European businessmen (apparently the greatest threat to world peace is old-world entrepreneurs in designer suits) have the best digs, the coolest machines, gobs of money, hordes of lackies, hot women (albeit ones with a weakness for MI-6 agents), and generally a pretty good life before they meet their respective ends. (If I were one of these guys, I wouldn't bother trying to take over the world. Who needs the headache?)

It's therefore no surprise that, as WALL STREET co-writer Stanley Weiser reveals in an essay published in today's LA Times, so many young people who've viewed that Oliver Stone flick in the last 21 years have viewed Michael Douglas's character Gordon Gecko as a role model. Never mind that he is the undisputed villain of the piece, the Dark Father to Charlie Sheen's protagonist who battles Good Father Martin Sheen for the younger Sheen's soul. (Judging from "Two and a Half Men," it's hard to see who won.) Never mind that Gecko loses his cool at the end of the movie, punching out young Sheen and blabbing incriminating evidence to the wire-wearing ex-protege. Never mind, even, that he's named after a lizard that walks up walls. Gecko's "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good" speech has apparently inspired multitudes of nascent capitalists to abandon scruples and try to lie, cheat and steal themselves into riches.

The writer offers fascinating insights on the inspirations for Gecko (apparently Gecko's rapid-fire insulting pieces of inspiration were based on Oliver Stone's snippy phone messages to Weiser), the demands of working for Stone ("Read 'Crime and Punishment' over the weekend and we'll talk Monday"), and some speculation on what Gecko might be doing today, with Wall Street flaming and tumbling around him due to the very greed Gecko lauded:

"Then Gekko would slither forward, sucking the victuals in his path dry like
a raw egg. How exactly would he do this? Well, I am only a screenwriter, I can't
tell you the specifics. But under the circumstances, what he'd undoubtedly do
would be buying and selling. Selling and buying. Even if he was barred from
trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission, he would find a way around
it. Even if he fled the country, and the economy was going down the tubes the
way it is, he'd find a way around it. Selling and buying. After all -- what else
could he do?"

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