Michael Douglas in 'Wall Street' crashes Cannes
Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone stormed the Cannes film festival Friday with their "Wall Street" sequel, a blockbuster dramatisation of the 2008 financial crisis.
The 65-year-old Douglas gives a crackling performance as rogue banker Gordon Gekko with his on-screen son Shia LaBeouf, British actress Carey Mulligan as his daughter, and Josh Brolin as the film's lead banker villain.
They wowed the crowds when they mounted the red carpet for Friday evening's gala premiere, along with Hollywood directors Martin Scorsese and George Lucas, and actresses Juliette Binoche and Kate Beckinsale.
In "Wall Street -- Money Never Sleeps", Douglas reprises his role as the predatory investment fraudster Gekko, who coined the term "greed is good" in Stone's 1987 original -- a film ripe for revisiting in today's market turmoil.
In the new film, Gekko comes out of jail older and wiser -- but with the same reptilian instincts -- and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter at the dawn of the financial crisis.
LaBeouf plays a good-hearted Wall Street rookie who fights against the dark powers of financial speculation to invest in green energy while supporting his mother, a struggling real estate agent played by Susan Sarandon.
He teams up with Gekko, his fiancee's father.
"This is a story about family," said Stone, who in 1987 dedicated the first "Wall Street" to his own father, a stockbroker and economist.
"This is a story about people who are balancing their love of power and money with their need for love," he told a news conference.
The film-maker said the movie, which screened out of competition in Cannes on Friday and opens in cinemas in September, was prompted by the financial recklessness that led to the recent crisis.
Douglas's original testosterone-driven performance helped establish the first "Wall Street" as a classic indictment of capitalist greed, but the actor said he and Stone were alarmed at the time that some saw Gekko as a hero.
"Gekko the insider trader, the guy who destroyed companies, who destroyed people, was a very well-written villain and people are attracted to villains," Douglas said.
"We never anticipated that all these people in business school would just be ranting and raving that this was the person that they wanted to be," he added.
"And yet 22 years later I bet that a lot of those MBA students are heading up these investment banking companies."
Among other stars in "Money Never Sleeps", veteran US actor Frank Langella plays LaBeouf's childhood mentor, an old-school investment bank chief who gets out of his depth with leveraged debt and sub-prime loans.
Stone said the character was based on bosses from Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, huge Wall Street investment banks that were brought low by the crisis in 2008 -- but the film portrays the flawed banker sympathetically.
Some of the blistering scenes resemble the crisis meetings convened by US authorities as they anxiously debated whether to bail out the banks to save the economy.
Since Charlie Sheen and Douglas slugged it out in a rain-drenched Central Park at the climax of the 1987 movie, "the greed factor has multiplied so much," Stone said.
"I'm confused, as are many people in the world right now, whether capitalism in its present form can work. It seems not," he added.
"In 1987 I thought it was going to correct itself, I really did. But it didn't... Shareholders and CEOs made money, working people did not. There's a tremendous injustice and inequality in that."
Douglas summed up the film's message in a quote from Gekko himself.
"The greed has not stopped," he said. "It got legal."
© 2010 AFP