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Robert De Niro Stars as Bernie Madoff, ‘The Wizard of Lies’

HBO’s upcoming film about the Ponzi schemer also features Hank Azaria and Bette Midler’s daughter, Sophie von Haselberg

Gabriela Geselowitz
January 17, 2017
HBO / Facebook
Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff in HBO'HBO / Facebook
HBO / Facebook
Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff in HBO'HBO / Facebook

Should we really reward terrible behavior by delivering wrongdoers into the hands of terrific actors? Al Pacino played Phil Spector, after all, and now Robert De Niro will be taking on the role of one Bernard Madoff, 21st-century crook. ABC’s take on the Madoff story was more or less a flop, but the con artist is about to get the HBO treatment, and appear onscreen in the form of the same man who played Travis Bickle and also the dad from Meet the Parents.

The Wizard of Lies airs on HBO in May and tells the story of Bernie’s downfall following the exposure of his perhaps decades-long Ponzi scheme. In the great tradition of film and television, the Italian-American (De Niro) plays a Jew, while a Jewish actor (Hank Azaria) plays an Italian (Frank Dipascali, Madoff’s partner-in-crime/finance chief, who died in May 2015, four months before his sentencing). If you want to get further excited, know that Bette Midler’s daughter, Sophie von Haselberg, appears in the film as an attorney. Furthermore, how does Michelle Pfeiffer feel about her role as Ruth, Bernie’s wife? After all, back in the day she dated John Malkovich, who lost over $2 million in the fallout from Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Will that personal connection help her performance?

But perhaps most important question is whether or not the film go up to the present. That is, will it detail those reports where Madoff (currently serving an over century-long sentence) has bought out his prison’s commissary stock of hot chocolate packets, and has begun selling them at a profit? It may seem a bit derivative of Orange is the New Black, but it would make for a great film in and off itself—you could call it, The Swiss Mister.

While you’re waiting, there’s a new teaser out for The Wizard of Lies, and you can watch below:

Gabriela Geselowitz is a writer and the former editor of