Gordon Gekko is out of prison and out of money. He's not quite through with Wall Street, though.
Reuniting with director Oliver Stone, Michael Douglas reprises his Academy Award-winning role as financial viper Gekko in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," whose premiere Friday at the Cannes Film Festival could not be more timely as frenzied gyrations continue to rock the stock market.
"You just had the flash-crash on Thursday. Here we are at Cannes. It's almost like Rupert Murdoch made it happen," said co-star Shia LaBeouf, referring to the chairman of News Corp., which owns 20th Century Fox, the studio releasing the film.
"You're down 1,000 points on Thursday, you're up 300 points on Monday," LaBeouf, who plays Gekko's new protégé, said in an interview. "You literally, just as I'm speaking to you, just went through the most tumultuous 30 minutes to ever hit the market in the history of Wall Street, and here we are promoting a movie. It's wild that our movie's taking place in this landscape. This is a firefight in the middle of the craziest money storm that has ever happened."
Opening theatrically in September, the follow up to 1987's "Wall Street" is set against the economic meltdown of 2008. Released from prison in 2001 after eight years for insider trading and other crimes, Gekko has just published a memoir titled "Is Greed Good?" echoing the oily-haired raider's mantra of avarice in the original film.
LaBeouf's Jake Moore is a turk at an investment house run by his mentor(Frank Langella), who finds himself in a fierce showdown with a rival (Josh Brolin). Jake finds a new sage in Gekko, who is barred from trading but is full of advice and insider dirt that his new disciple can put to use.
Gekko also happens to be the estranged father of Jake's fiance (Carey Mulligan).
The film plays out amid the sky-is-falling sense of doom as banks came close to collapse from bad loans. Though markets have stabilized and recovered much of their losses, the danger is far from over, Stone said.
"It's a sensational period when they want to hang the bankers, but I don't see this system as changing. The banks are going to continue on their unhealthy ways, and I think it's going to happen again," Stone said. "I don't think it's going away. It may not happen this year or next year, but it's bound to happen."
Stone said he stuck to the notion that helped make the first film a success: Putting people and an intriguing story first, the economy second.
Still, the film brings the economic crisis home in a more personal way than many people have perceived it, entertaining audiences while providing insights into convoluted financial matters, Mulligan said.
"Oliver could articulate what happened in a kind of accessible blockbuster form," Mulligan said. "I don't know anything about finance, and I think that I certainly know more now than I did walking into this. It's understandable to me, which is saying something, because it's not my world at all."
Gekko spends much of the film seemingly above it all, commenting with expertise but seemingly no personal stake on the new state of greed, whose magnitude in 2008 makes his own criminal excesses of 20 years earlier seem like misdemeanors.
"When I was away, it seems that greed got greedier, with a little bit of envy mixed in," Gekko remarks.
Gekko insists he has no money, yet he's a man of contrasts, who gets around New York with a subway pass but lives in a gorgeous Manhattan apartment. He spouts new slogans: "The mother of all evil is speculation," and "One thing I learned in jail is that money is not the prime asset. Time is," a hint he's a man who has learned his lesson.
"The issue is whether on one level Gordon is reformed or not," Douglas said. "Is he reformed or is this a hustle?"