Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff in the HBO film The Wizard of Lies, which reveals the inside story of the Ponzi scheme scandal that raked in an estimated US$65 billion. Craig Blankenhorn / HBO via AP Photo
Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff in the HBO film The Wizard of Lies, which reveals the inside story of the Ponzi scheme scandal that raked in an estimated US$65 billion. Craig Blankenhorn / HBO via AP Show more

The Wizard of Lies reveals the true story of con man Bernie Madoff

Tens of billions of dollars is hardly chump change, but then Bernie Madoff is no chump. He is the Wall Street fraudster who master-minded the most heinous swindle of our generation, until it all unravelled during the market crash of 2008.

Now Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer have teamed up to tell the true story, behind the headlines, of Madoff's deceptions, lies and betrayals in The Wizard of Lies, a TV movie that has its premiere today on OSN First HD, Home of HBO.

De Niro slips into the skin of the con man who raked in an estimated US$65 billion (Dh239 billion) from investors during his elaborate Ponzi scheme, a fraud he sustained for decades while keeping his wife, Ruth (Pfeiffer), and their sons, Mark and Andrew, in the dark about his crimes.

"Bernie Madoff's greed brought down and destroyed his entire family," says executive producer and Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson, whose credits include Hollywood hits such as Diner (1982), Rain Man (1988) and Wag the Dog (1997).

“This is a dangerous character. He doesn’t have a gun. He’s not going to shoot you. But he could destroy your life.”

For De Niro, 73, it was an eye-opener to see how Madoff operated and “the way he conned everybody by not conning them – by just being so removed – and let them come to him”.

The film is based upon The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, a 2011 book by The New York Times investigative reporter Diana B Henriques.

Pfeiffer, 59, says: “It was unrelenting to see what these people go through and how it affected everyone – and for me, Ruth, mostly: she lost everything in a day. It was all taken away from her.

“Ruth Madoff was villainised ... Everyone turned against her. Her children stopped talking to her. She was completely isolated.”

In preparing for her role, Pfeiffer decided not to seek a meeting with Ruth Madoff – “I didn’t want to contribute in any way to the victimisation that she had already been through” – but circumstances and opportunity changed her mind.

“I was encouraged to reach out to her, and she said she would meet me, so I spent a little time with her,” says Pfeiffer. “And she was incredibly generous, really gracious – a little guarded, understandably so, but I spent a lovely hour with her.”

In preparing for his role, De Niro took a methodical approach.

“I read several books by family members – and, of course, the Diana Henriques book on which it was based,” he says. “I met certain people who worked with him, and knew him.

“I didn’t meet him ... it just somehow felt it’s too difficult to meet him – although I would have loved to.”

Pfeiffer’s on-screen appearances have been few and far between in recent years.

"I've never lost my love for acting," she recently told Vanity Fair. "But I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids' schedule. And I got so picky that I was unhireable. And then ... I don't know, time just went on ... I disappeared, yeah."

A comeback is in the works. Her upcoming movies this year include filmmaker Darren Aronofsky's Mother!, with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem; and Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, co-starring Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz.

And what of the man whose crimes inspired the film? Madoff, now a 79-year-old, resides far from his former palatial homes in Manhattan, Long Island, Palm Springs and Cap d’Antibes in France. He is inmate #61727-054 serving a 150-year sentence in the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina.

“People are greedy,” Madoff told author Henriques during a 2010 interview. “I told everyone, ‘Don’t put more than half of your money with me – you don’t know, I could go crazy’.”

For Madoff to accuse others of greed seems insane – but De Niro doesn’t think the crook is mentally ill.

“It doesn’t explain anything to say he’s a sociopath.”

Instead, De Niro wonders if the people around him simply looked the other way.

“Everyone probably had an idea ... but they didn’t want to look too deeply,” he says.

The Wizard of Lies screens at 11pm today on OSN First HD, Home of HBO. Also available on demand

Important questions to consider

1. Where on the plane does my pet travel?

There are different types of travel available for pets:

  • Manifest cargo
  • Excess luggage in the hold
  • Excess luggage in the cabin

Each option is safe. The feasibility of each option is based on the size and breed of your pet, the airline they are traveling on and country they are travelling to.


2. What is the difference between my pet traveling as manifest cargo or as excess luggage?

If traveling as manifest cargo, your pet is traveling in the front hold of the plane and can travel with or without you being on the same plane. The cost of your pets travel is based on volumetric weight, in other words, the size of their travel crate.

If traveling as excess luggage, your pet will be in the rear hold of the plane and must be traveling under the ticket of a human passenger. The cost of your pets travel is based on the actual (combined) weight of your pet in their crate.


3. What happens when my pet arrives in the country they are traveling to?

As soon as the flight arrives, your pet will be taken from the plane straight to the airport terminal.

If your pet is traveling as excess luggage, they will taken to the oversized luggage area in the arrival hall. Once you clear passport control, you will be able to collect them at the same time as your normal luggage. As you exit the airport via the ‘something to declare’ customs channel you will be asked to present your pets travel paperwork to the customs official and / or the vet on duty. 

If your pet is traveling as manifest cargo, they will be taken to the Animal Reception Centre. There, their documentation will be reviewed by the staff of the ARC to ensure all is in order. At the same time, relevant customs formalities will be completed by staff based at the arriving airport. 


4. How long does the travel paperwork and other travel preparations take?

This depends entirely on the location that your pet is traveling to. Your pet relocation compnay will provide you with an accurate timeline of how long the relevant preparations will take and at what point in the process the various steps must be taken.

In some cases they can get your pet ‘travel ready’ in a few days. In others it can be up to six months or more.


5. What vaccinations does my pet need to travel?

Regardless of where your pet is traveling, they will need certain vaccinations. The exact vaccinations they need are entirely dependent on the location they are traveling to. The one vaccination that is mandatory for every country your pet may travel to is a rabies vaccination.

Other vaccinations may also be necessary. These will be advised to you as relevant. In every situation, it is essential to keep your vaccinations current and to not miss a due date, even by one day. To do so could severely hinder your pets travel plans.

Source: Pawsome Pets UAE

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7. UAE
8. Taiwan
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Industry: FinTech
Funding size: $10m
Investors: Mashreq, others


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Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

In numbers: China in Dubai

The number of Chinese people living in Dubai: An estimated 200,000

Number of Chinese people in International City: Almost 50,000

Daily visitors to Dragon Mart in 2018/19: 120,000

Daily visitors to Dragon Mart in 2010: 20,000

Percentage increase in visitors in eight years: 500 per cent

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  8. Bahawalpur, Pakistan
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Stars: Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, Jack Huston

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Age: 78

Favourite destination: Always Al Ain “Dar Al Zain”

Hobbies: his work  - “ the thing which I am most passionate for and which occupied all my time in the morning and evening from 1963 to 2019”

Other hobbies: football

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July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Biggest applause

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Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government