Malaysia’s ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ producer dropped from Oscars

File photo shows cast member Margot Robbie arriving for the UK premiere of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ at Leicester Square, in London, January 10, 2014. — Reuters pic
File photo shows cast member Margot Robbie arriving for the UK premiere of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ at Leicester Square, in London, January 10, 2014. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — Malaysia’s link to this year’s Academy Awards in the United States has ended early after producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz was omitted in a “very rare” move from list of nominees for the Best Picture category.

But Riza’s partner in production firm Red Granite Pictures, Joey McFarland, remains on the list and was joined by director Martin Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who were added by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Riza was nominated initially with McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff ― Scorsese’s partner ― by the Producers Guild of America (PGA), but was removed upon further study by the Academy, according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR).

“We are thrilled that the Academy has recognised the invaluable contributions of Marty, Leo, Joey and Emma on behalf of The Wolf of Wall Street. Riza Aziz and Red Granite remain honoured to be part of the production team,” Red Granite told THR after it discovered the Malaysian producer, described as the film’s financier, was dropped.

The move was seen as unusual as the Academy customarily accepts recommendations by the PGA for nominees, and is believed to stem from the former organisation’s rule that producers are those “who have performed the major portion of the producing functions.”

But the Academy is also departing from another of its own rules that no more than three individuals are cited as producers for Best Picture nominations, when it added Scorsese and DiCaprio in place of Riza.

“They have the right to change it, keep it, adjust it, any way they see fit. Although I have to point out it is very rare that the Academy has not taken the Producers Guild recommendation, but they have every right to and I believe there has been one or two isolated incident over the past many years,” PGA president Mark Gordon told entertainment website Deadline after the announcement on Tuesday.

The latest news is another blow for the Malaysian connection to the Hollywood blockbuster, after it was reported that the film will not be shown here after reportedly falling foul of local censors due to its graphic content and language.

The film remains nominated for five Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards to be held on March 2, in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Wolf of Wall Street” has already picked up numerous accolades, which most recently included two Golden Globes last week for “Best Comedy” and “Best Comedy Actor” that was won by DiCaprio.

The movie made waves in Malaysia last month after whistle-blower website Sarawak Report published reports that revealed Riza’s role in Red Granite Pictures, the producers of “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and linked him to the purchase of a RM110 million apartment in New York.

The allegations contained on the website run by Clare Rewcastle-Brown, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown, led to demands by opposition lawmakers for Riza to be investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over a reported purchase.

But the MACC said on December 30 that it was not empowered under the law to investigate such “mismatch” of income against “excessive” assets, but added it was hoping for an amendment to be tabled in Parliament next year that will allow it to do so.

On January 6, lawyers representing Red Granite sent a letter of demand to Sarawak Report over allegations that the firm was funded using “ill-gotten wealth” from Malaysia, that “The Wolf of Wall Street” was dropped by major studios but resurrected upon the firm’s involvement, and the firm was a Malaysian concern.

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