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Chimpanzee Exploited in "The Wolf of Wall Street"

December 13, 2013 | Take Action

Did you know that the movie The Wolf of Wall Street forced a chimpanzee to “act,” which can cause severe psychological damage?

When The Wolf of Wall Street premieres in NYC on Dec. 17, there is sure to buzz about whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays real life law-breaking stockbroker Jordan Belfort, will get an Oscar nod.  But what likely won’t be talked about is one of DiCaprio’s co-stars, a chimpanzee named Chance who portrays his character’s pet, and the long-term damage that is done to primates exploited in entertainment. 

The damage, which results in negative and neurotic behaviors and an inability to socially interact with other chimps, is the focus of “Animals in Entertainment—Hollywood’s Betrayal of Great Apes,” written by Edita Birnkrant, NY director for Friends of Animals, in the organization’s winter edition of Action Line. The article also reveals Chance’s life story of exploitation and exposes the cruel teaching methods of his circus animal trainer. 

Friends of Animals knows all too well about this issue since  it manages the Primarily Primates sanctuary in Texas, which cares for many chimpanzees used in entertainment who were discarded once they got too old to control. In 1986 five chimpanzee stars of the film Project X were brought to Primarily Primates after a lawsuit against the film’s producer’s alleged abuse and mistreatment of chimps by their trainers. 

Two of the chimps, Willie and Okko, are still alive and cared for 27 years later at the sanctuary. 

“Willie, star of the Project X film still runs away in fear when he sees cameras. Another chimp, exhibited neurotic behaviors like rocking and clutching,” said Brooke Chavez, assistant director of Primarily Primates

DiCaprio, who runs a conservation foundation and is known for his passion for saving wildlife, and director Martin Scorsese should know better than to feature a chimpanzee dressed in a suit roller-skating through an office in their movie. With current computer graphics technology, animals no longer need to be exploited in film. To learn more about Willie and Okko, check out the Winter 2010 and Winter 2011 Primarily Primates newsletters.

Further, Chance could have been spared this cruelty as his character’s existence seems to be based on fiction.  The real Danny Porush, Belfort’s co-worker, who Jonah Hill portrays in the film, told Mother Jones magazine, "There was never a chimpanzee in the office," Porush maintains. "There were no animals in the office ... I would also never abuse an animal in any way." 

FoA’s Birnkrant plans to confront DiCaprio and Scorsese at the red carpet premiere and has copies of her  Action Line exposé to hand out.


Press coverage of this issue:

"Animal rights group calls for boycott of Martin Scorsese's 'The Wolf of Wall Street'" The Raw Story

"Chimpanzee dressed in a suit...prompts boycott calls" The Independent 

"Sorcsese's The Wolf of Wall Street: animal rights group calls for boycott"   

"Animal Rights Group Boycotting 'Wolf of Wall Street'"  

"Friends of Animals boycotting 'Wolf of Wall Streetl" 


We in the Ape Alliance are right with you on this, FoA, and are urging those involved in the making of Wolf of Wall Street to sign so they don't repeat the mistake again. Thank you for your excellent work.

"No Harm" should mean no harm at ANY time.

Animals are not ours to eat,wear,use,amuse,abuse or experiment on. This is no different than what slavery was to minority and racial groups. "We must first all become a humane being in order to be the complete human being" Daved Wachsman

I was going to see this movie-now I definitely will not & will encourage friends/family to boycott this film. Come on Hollywood, you don't need to exploit animals to make money.

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