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Wall Street
Wall street.jpeg
Every dream has a price
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Produced by: Edward R. Pressman
Written by: Stanley Weiser Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas
Charlie Sheen
Daryl Hannah
Martin Sheen
Hal Holbrook
Terence Stamp
Tagline: Every dream has a price
Runtime: 125 mins.
Country: United States
Language: English
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Released on: December 11, 1987
Rating: Rating R.gif
Budget: $15,000,000

Wall Street is an American film released in 1987. It was directed by Oliver Stone, and features Michael Douglas in perhaps his most famous role. The film has come to be seen as the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, with Douglas as the archetypal "Master of the Universe". Wall Street was written by Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone. It won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Douglas). It was followed by a 2010 sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Plot synopsis

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

The story involves a young stockbroker, Bud Fox (played by Charlie Sheen), who is desperate to get to "the top". He settles on a plan to become involved with his hero, the extremely successful and wealthy but unscrupulous corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).

After succeeding in attaining an audience with Gekko, Fox gives him a stock tip based on insider information he obtained from his father, Carl (Martin Sheen, Charlie's real-life father). Carl is a maintenance chief at a small airline, Bluestar, who learns that they will soon be cleared of a safety concern after a previous crash.

Gekko uses the information Bud reveals to him about Bluestar to make a small profit when the stock jumps after the verdict on the crash is released. Fox quickly learns that this is the secret to Gekko's success—insider information—and the illegalities and ethical conflict bother him only slightly as he is quickly admitted into Gekko's inner circle. Gekko takes Fox under his wing and he quickly becomes very wealthy and gets Gekko's promised "perks" including the fancy apartment and the trophy blonde interior decorator Darien (Daryl Hannah).

This difference changes when Gekko decides to do a corporate raid on Fox's father's company. At this point he must choose between the rich insider's lifestyle offered by working outside the law, or his father's more traditional blue-collar values of fair play and hard work. He chooses to try to preserve the latter by utilizing what he has learned from Gekko. To achieve this Bud uses a business rival to break the deal, getting indicted for insider trading in the process. He gets his last revenge by turning state's evidence against Gekko, although Gekko's fate is left ambiguous.

Spoilers end here.


Actor Role
Michael Douglas Gordon Gekko
Charlie Sheen Bud Fox
Daryl Hannah Darien Taylor
Martin Sheen Carl Fox
Hal Holbrook Lou Mannheim
Terence Stamp Sir Larry Wildman


After the success of Platoon, Stone began researching a movie about quiz show scandals in the 1950s. However, at lunch with a film school friend and Los Angeles screenwriter Stanley Weiser, Stone heard an idea for a film that could be "Crime and Punishment on Wall Street. Two guys abusing each other on Wall Street." The director had been thinking about this kind of a movie as early as 1981. He knew a New York businessman who was making millions and working long days putting together deals all over the world. This man started making mistakes that cost him everything. Stone remembers that the "story frames what happens in my movie, which is basically a Pilgrim’s Progress of a boy who is seduced and corrupted by the allure of easy money. And in the third act, he sets out to redeem himself." Stone and Weiser began researching the world of stock trading, junk bonds and corporate takeovers. They met a lot of powerful Wall Street movers and shakers. Weiser wrote the first draft, initially called Greed, with Stone writing another draft. Originally, the lead character was a young Jewish broker named Freddie Goldsmith but Stone changed it to Bud Fox to avoid the misconception that Wall Street was controlled by Jews. According to Weiser, Gekko’s style of speaking was inspired by Stone. "When I was writing some of the dialogue I would listen to Oliver on the phone and sometimes he talks very rapid-fire, the way Gordon Gekko does."


Stone met Tom Cruise who expressed an interest in playing Bud Fox but the director had already committed to Charlie Sheen for the role. Michael Douglas had just come off heroic roles like the one in Romancing the Stone and was looking for something darker and edgier. The studio wanted Warren Beatty to play Gekko but he was not interested. Stone initially wanted Richard Gere but the actor passed and the director went with Douglas. The actor remembers when he first read the screenplay. "I thought it was a great part. It was a long script, and there were some incredibly long and intense monologues to open with. I’d never seen a screenplay where there were two or three pages of single-spaced type for a monologue. I thought, whoa! I mean, it was unbelievable."

However, Stone made the mistake of casting Daryl Hannah as Bud Fox’s materialistic girlfriend. She was having problems relating to her character and struggled with the role and personal problems. The director was aware early on that she was not right for the role but refused to admit the mistake. He remarked, "Daryl Hannah was not happy doing the role and I should have let her go. All my crew wanted to get rid of her after one day of shooting. My pride was such that I kept saying I was going to make it work." Stone also had difficulties with Sean Young who made her opinions known that Hannah should be fired and she should play her role instead. Young would show up to the set late and unprepared. She also did not get along with Charlie Sheen which caused unnecessary friction on the set. In retrospect, Stone felt that Young was right and he should have swapped roles between her and Hannah.

Principal photography

Stone wanted to shoot the movie in New York City and that required a budget of at least $15 million. The studio that backed Platoon felt that it was too risky a project to bankroll and passed. Stone and producer Edward R. Pressman took it to 20th Century Fox who loved it and filming began in May 1987.

According to Stone, he was "making a movie about sharks, about feeding frenzies. Bob [director of photography Robert Richardson] and I wanted the camera to become a predator. There is no letup until you get to the fixed world of Charlie’s father, where the stationary camera gives you a sense of immutable values."[9]

Jeffrey "Mad Dog" Beck, a star investment banker at the time with Drexel Burnham Lambert, was one of the film's technical advisers and has a cameo appearance in the film as the man speaking at the meeting discussing the breakup of Bluestar. Within two years of the film's release, his star would fall as The Wall Street Journal ran an article exposing many things he had led people to believe about himself (that he was an heir to the Beck brewing family fortune and that he had served in the Vietnam War) as fabrications.

Original cut

The first version of the film had a 160-minute running time, as opposed to 120 minutes for the theatrical release.

Most of the 40 minutes cut involved a subplot in which Bud had an affair with Gekko's wife, Kate (Sean Young). As a result her appearance in the film is greatly diminished. It does, however, explain why Gekko is so angry with Bud in their confrontation at the film's climax.

While it certainly made the film more marketable, its excision may have had as much to do with Young being widely despised by many on the set due to the kind of bizarre behavior that would become more public several years later. Charlie Sheen (who has also admitted drinking heavily during production) reportedly at one point slapped a paper sign on her back saying "I am a cunt"; it took several hours before Young was aware of it.

There was thus a bitter irony, critics noted, at that year's Academy Award ceremony, Sean Young presented the Best Editing award.

Other cut scenes explain that Darien began her career as a call girl, the basis for Carl Fox telling off his son with "I don't go to bed with no whore, and I don't wake up with one" and the umbrage Bud takes at it. And yet another one explains how Bud becomes president of Bluestar without giving up his position at the brokerage firm, something that seems highly implausible in the final cut.

It is unknown at this point whether this footage will ever be shown in a rerelease of the film or on a special-edition DVD.

Selected quotes

  • "Sun-tzu: If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split and reevaluate." - Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox
  • "It’s not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another." - Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko
  • "Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others." - Martin Sheen as Carl Fox
  • "If you need a friend, get a dog." - Douglas as Gekko
  • "You see that building? I bought that building ten years ago. My first real estate deal. Sold it two years later, made an $800,000 profit. It was better than sex. At the time I thought that was all the money in the world. Now it's a day's pay." - Douglas as Gekko
  • "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA."


  • Also making a cameo appearance is veteran Saturday Night Live writer and sometime performer Michael O'Donoghue, as the reporter Bud phones tips into.
  • Stone himself can be seen as one of the people on phones passing on tips on Anacott Steel in the split-screen montage early in the film.
  • "Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss." - Hal Holbrook as Lou Mannheim
  • The film is dedicated to Stone's father Louis, who worked on Wall Street his entire life.
  • Michael Douglas and Martin Sheen would later be reunited in the film The American President.
  • In one of the last scenes when Bud and Gekko are arguing in Central Park, the high rise from Ghostbusters can be seen in the far background. The building - "Spook Central" - is located at 55 Central Park West.

References in popular culture

1993's Hot Shots! Part Deux had a scene where Charlie Sheen was seen on a boat going up a river, writing a letter as we heard his voiceover narration from Platoon. In further acknowledgement of that, another boat passes in the opposite direction with Martin Sheen himself reciting his narration from Apocalypse Now. As the craft pass, father and son simultaneously shout at each other, "I Loved you in Wall Street!"

In the 2000 film Boiler Room, some of the young stockbrokers in that film are shown watching Wall Street on video. During the scene where Bud goes to Gekko's office for the first time and listens as he converses on the phone about the CEO of a company he is considering taking over, they turn down the volume and recite his lines ("Their quarterlies are for sh*t! ... If this guy owned a funeral parlor, nobody would die!!!") in unison.

Future Stock, an episode of the animated television series Futurama, takes much of its inspiration from Wall Street.

In a 2005-06 episode of the TV program Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a Professor tells Detectives Goren and Eames his alibi saying that he was screening Wall Street for his class in business ethics.

In the famous British sitcom Only Fools And Horses, main character Del Boy revamps his image and bases himself on Gordon Gekko at the start of series 6.