Nearly every actor onscreen in “The Wolf of Wall Street” gets to have debauched, hedonistic fun — except for Kyle Chandler. As FBI Agent Patrick Denham, he’s the guy who spends the film trying to bust superbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Not that the role was boring. Chandler says what excited him was getting to know more about government officials, specifically by talking to the real-life agent who took down Belfort. He told Chandler about the strange relationship between the agent and his mark.
“He told me what it’s like to spend so much time with someone. You’re interviewing him. You’re putting a wire on him. You’re eating lunch together. You’re spending time with someone you’re going to put away,” Chandler explains. “He told me it was important to know he has no animosity towards the people he arrests. It’s his job.”
Chandler also gets a few key scenes with DiCaprio, most notably a scene where Denham visits Belfort on his yacht in Downtown Manhattan for a faux-friendly chat that gradually turns into threats through big smiles.
“That was the first scene I shot in the movie,” Chandler reveals. He says he prefers not to do a lot of rehearsal before shooting. “I like going in cold then finding the material as you play it out,” he says. That happened here. He says he spent a chunk of the scene staring at a piece of paper DiCaprio had placed on a table. When DiCaprio, in character, chided him, asking if he was actually going to look at him, Chandler found himself exploding on him. “That really pissed me off. I said, ‘Yeah, give me a chance!’ It was cool because it was part of the confrontation. But at the same time it was fun.”
The other main attraction, of course, is working for director Martin Scorsese. You obviously don’t hesitate when Scorsese asks you to audition for his latest project. But being in a Scorsese film so filled with montages means you’re not always prepared for how he’ll use you. Chandler recalls getting excited when, seeing the film in a private screening in Texas for only him and his wife, there came a shot where he walks into the offices of Belfort’s firm, dozens of agents behind him, finally ready to bust.
“When I was watching it and that song comes up and I come walking through that door, I wanted to go find Martin Scorsese and kiss him right on the mouth. Man, what a shot that is,” he gushes. “If I could get that on a loop and play it as I’m brushing my teeth, I’m set.”
This is far from the first time Chandler has played an authority figure, from his long stint as the football coach on “Friday Night Lights” to a single father cop in “Super 8” to suits in “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and now this. How did he come to play these roles?
“Man, I haven’t figured that out. That people want to hire me as a source of authority just boggles my mind,” he replies. He says this will probably be the last suit he plays for awhile, and not only for fear of being pigeonholed. “I remember when I was in college my buddy and I wanted to be actors because we didn’t want to ever have to wear a suit and tie. That’s all I do now. What an idiot I am.”