One Year After Arrest, Bernie Madoff Gets His Own Movie

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Independent feature film by first-time San Francisco director Tomas Puig takes Madoff through hell.

Friday, December 11th marks the one-year anniversary of Bernard L. Madoff’s arrest in his New York apartment, and with it comes the announcement that the infamous Wall Street schemer will have a full-length feature film made about him.

The movie, Madoff’s Inferno, is a fictional retelling of Dante’s classic tale through the eyes of Bernie Madoff. Writer/director Tomas Puig is following the epic work closely as the basis of his script, and Bernie will travel through all the levels of hell during this “road-trip style” dark, satirical independent comedy, currently in production in San Francisco.

Madoff is played by actor Andre Mathieu, who Puig had in mind for the part from the start. The rest of the cast has been mostly drawn from the pool of great professional acting talent in the San Francisco Bay Area with some specific roles filled with cast pulled from Los Angeles.

Dante’s nine circles of hell—limbo, lust, gluttony, avarice, wrath and sloth, heresy, violence, fraud, and treason—are converted into characters. “One couldn’t very well watch a film purely about the writhing agony of those punished for committing suicide,” acknowledged Puig. “But in my film the settings are converted into states of actions and interactions between the characters.”

Madoff meets a colorful cast of characters throughout his journey through the modern-day city. Puig exchanged New York for his native home of San Francisco, saying that every city has its own depths of depravity that are deeper than we ever imagine. The crew shot in the alleys of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood: the bars, the brothels, the rooftops. “We got in deep under the city’s skin, and we feel that its personality, degradation, and even beauty show through the film’s footage.” The stark lighting hearkens back to the look and feel of the old film noir pictures that bring “that sense of darkness and depth to a film.”

Puig says the film project began as question about how Madoff lived with himself for almost 20 years while stealing from those who were most dear to him. “How could he split himself in two and appear to be so kind and polite, yet be such a thief and liar?” wondered Puig. “Any normal man would have cracked. Was it insanity? Was it will? Was it fear? Was it pure evil?

“Anytime that you have such a notorious character it is hard to even think of him or her as a human being. But Bernie Madoff, despite the fact his deceitful acts destroyed so many lives, is still human. So I feel like we need to portray him in a way that can discover something about his inner being.”

It has been a hard year for investments and an equally hard year in indie film making. Funding has disappeared and distributors have shuttered. But on the bright side, says Puig, when working on a shoestring budget, “the crew becomes a family. In some ways it is liberating to be so close to everything and walk right over to an actor to give notes. Some days, though, I dream of more advanced equipment to get the perfect shot. Creating art is always a constant battle between the dreams of the creator and the limitations and budget of the medium.”

Puig has “the greatest compassion for the betrayed,” and says that if Bernie’s victims see the film, he hopes “they find it cathartic and maybe even laugh a little some of the schadenfreude moments.” Fraud victim Burt Ross had Inferno in mind when he famously said after Madoff’s June sentencing: "May Satan grow a fourth mouth where Bernard L. Madoff deserves to spend the rest of eternity." (Dante's Satan had three mouths that eternally chewed on some of the history's most loathed betrayers: Judas Isacariot, Brutus, and Cassius.)

And if Bernie saw it? “He’d feel shame, if anything,” said Puig. “I hope Bernie feels shame and regret.” Bernie may never get to see his film, but audiences can—starting the film festival season of spring 2010.

About the Film:
A dark comedic satire, Madoff’s Inferno is a retelling of Dante’s famous tale through the eyes of Wall Street’s most infamous man. Part fact, part fiction, we follow Bernie Madoff on a descent into hell, led by Virgil, his college buddy, conman, and tour guide. Along the way Bernie and Virgil meet a cast of seedy characters in the city’s underbelly and get a taste of the life he never lived. Will Madoff meet his demise or realize his redemption? One thing’s for sure: you’ll see him in a whole new light. Watch a clip and donate to the project online at madoffsinferno.com

Madoff's Inferno is a SAG film in cooperation with the SAG low budget agreement.

About the Director:
Tomas Puig (b.1982) worked in music videos and advertising prior to undertaking his first feature film, Madoff’s Inferno. In addition to filmmaking, Puig has worked in the recording industry in Nashville, created interactive media, and developed product launches. He currently lives in San Francisco.

Partial Cast and Crew:
Director/Writer/Producer – Tomas Puig
Director of Photography – Dan Shimer
Andre Mathieu – Bernie Madoff
Bob Saenz – Virgil
Barry J. Ratcliffe – Ted
Garret Griffin – Plato
James Anthony Cotton – Aristotle
George McRae – Socrates
Kari Wishingrad – Ruth Madoff
Douglas Dickerman – Mark Madoff
Victor Fischbarg – Andrew Madoff
David Skillman – Minos
Melvina Jones – Francesca

For more information, please visit http://www.madoffsinferno.com

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Emily Ostendorf
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