Robert De Niro, who plays Madoff, spoke about the man behind the character: “He's a classic example of someone who receded very much back and let people come to him. [He] got to a position where people would think it’s an honor for him to take their money. That's a classic con situation that you see in all forms."
Author Diana B. Henriques, who served as a consultant on the film, offered: “What you need to understand is how plausible con men like this are, how utterly they can seize your trust and your imagination and make you believe.”
De Niro admitted he struggled to understand Madoff’s motives: "What he did is beyond my comprehension so there's disconnect somehow in him, and I still would like to understand," he said. "I did as best as I could."
Director Barry Levinson described De Niro’s transformation into the role: “Step by step, very slowly, maybe inch by inch, all of a sudden this character begins to emerge. It's not just one day. It's somehow over that period of time of talking, pre-production and talking, but it just keeps evolving, and then there's that day when all of a sudden there's the character he's going to play."
On reliving the experience by playing herself, Henriques said: "It was really an unforgettable experience to see Robert De Niro so totally occupying that character … it was surreal. The primary difference between interviewing Bernie in prison and interviewing Bob as Bernie in prison is I got a lot more takes."
Henriques added she hoped audiences will sympathize more with Madoff’s investors: “You could make an argument that they are to be pitied because all of us trust people in our lives, and only someone you can trust could truly betray you,”
De Niro said he felt people on the inside must have known about the scheme: “Everyone probably had an idea but they didn’t want to look too deeply.”
Wizard of Lies premieres on HBO May 2017.