Stanley Weiser has mixed feelings about Wall Street. As Oliver Stone’s screenwriting partner on the hit 1987 film, he’s naturally pleased by its enduring popularity. But he’s less happy about how audiences have made an icon of its slimy antagonist, millionaire corporate raider Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. “What I find strange and oddly disturbing,” Weiser tells the Los Angeles Times, “is that Gekko has been mythologized and elevated from villain to hero.” In the film, Gekko is a rapacious capitalist and ruthless insider trader; his signature line, “Greed is good,” became a catchphrase for the ’80s. “The character was written to create an engaging and charming but deceitful and brutal being. I have nevertheless run into quite a number of younger people who wax rhapsodic about it for the wrong reasons: ‘The movie changed my life. Once I saw it I knew that I wanted to get into such and such business. I wanted to be like Gordon Gekko.’” When he hears such things, Weiser says, “The neurons fire and alarm bells go off: ‘You have succeeded with this movie, but you’ve also failed. You gave these people hope to become greater asses than they already may be.’” With the real-life Wall Street now self-destructing, Weiser is more ambivalent about his brainchild than ever. “Several months ago, I was at Stone’s office and I saw him autograph a Wall Street poster. Above his name he wrote, ‘Greed is a bummer.’ Ain’t it the truth?”
of The Week magazine.