Feeling the Adrenaline of Wall Street

Preparing for his role in “Wall Street 2,” the actor discovered just how addictive Wall Street culture is—and why it’s not as soulless as many believe.
  • Transcript


Question: How did you study for your role in “Wall Street 2”?

John Buffalo Mailer:  It was a fairly extensive rehearsal process.  I took trips out to Long Island, kind of just got the feel of the town that we had set my character coming from, voice lessons, learning the floor, learning the actual trade of Wall Street traders.  It was kind of an incredible process.  So Shia [LeBouf] and myself and several other people, we just spent as many hours as we could shadowing different traders on the floor kind of finding where it stands today, how it’s different from the first Wall Street, how it’s the same.  It was an amazing ride.  I’ll tell you that.

Question: How has Wall Street culture changed since the original film came out?

John Buffalo Mailer:  Well the numbers are bigger for one thing.  It’s much more global.  It’s less centric to whatever area you’re in.  You know, some floors you go in and when the bell rings it’s silent and all you see are the computer screens starting to light up as people do different trades.  It used to be kind of like a big bang would start off the day.  A company that was I think the one I learned the most from, just in terms of my own character and the kind of firm he worked in, was John Thomas Financial. And there it’s like, you know, warriors in an arena getting ready for battle.  Thomas Belesis just fires these guys up like there is no tomorrow, and I absolutely got addicted to that optimism and adrenaline and that “We’re going to do it, we’re going to do it, buddy” kind of attitude that he had, so you know it runs the full spectrum.  His firm is much more like what it used to be in terms of warriors on a mission.  I think now it’s a lot more relaxed.  You see a lot of sneakers and jeans at places depending on which firm you’re talking to.

Question: What surprised you about Wall Street culture?

John Buffalo Mailer:  I had a lot of preconceived notions going in.  It wasn’t an industry that I really respected much.  My feeling was kind of like look, you’re not making anything.  You’re taking money from one place, putting it in another and taking your cut and that’s just not really kind of soul-satisfying at the end of the day, but what I learned is, on a larger scale is how much the Wall Street industry funnels and fuels so many others and we would not have a lot of medical research without it.  We would not have, you know, educational programs without it.  There is a lot of good that these guys do, and to lump all traders into a category is as insane as lumping any group of people into one category.  You’re going to find the good people and bad all around.  I had a lot of fun with those guys.  The laughter is unlike most settings you’ll find.  The level of intensity, the adrenaline, the stakes are incredible.  I mean it is addictive.  I can understand why people end up spending 23 or 24 hours a day hitting it.

Question: Is Wall Street fundamentally at odds with Main Street?

John Buffalo Mailer:  No, not at all.  Not at all.  I mean I think one of the larger problems going on right now is, debate has replaced discussion.  As I say you can’t lump Wall Street into one category.  That doesn’t mean anything.  Every firm has a different attitude and does different things and puts their cherries in certain places and their money in others.  Some are vicious, nasty, I will cut you down at all costs to make a buck, some have a much higher moral standard.  My hope is that the film will actually serve as a way for us to bridge that gap between Wall Street and Main Street.  Certainly that’s dealt with in the film of how it does affect everybody, so, you know, I always find that when you can create a movie or a play or a book that gives somebody a safe theoretical place to discuss what is really going on in the day it tends to forward discussion, so that would be my hope coming out of the film.

Recorded March 30, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen