Eight years after the scandal, a four-hour ABC mini-series called “Madoff,” starring Richard Dreyfuss as Bernie Madoff and Blythe Danner as his wife, Ruth, will air on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 3 and 4. Dryfuss, 68, told the NY Post he was the natural choice to play the Jewish mega-schemer, and, in fact, when he saw he wasn’t getting the script after the project had been announced, he said he was going to call ABC and tell them, “What’s the matter with your mail? I am the logical person to play the role, I am clearly a New Yorker, I’ve made a career out of playing college-educated, Upper West Side Jewish men. That’s the way I see myself. And that’s why they would be silly to go Joe Yutz.”
The mini-series, according to the NY Times, is well scripted, certainly more lucidly than the 2009 book on which it is based, “The Madoff Chronicles: Inside the Secret World of Bernie and Ruth,” by Brian Ross, ABC’s chief investigative correspondent. In the opening scene, Dryfuss as Madoff is seen and heard luring a new victim by refusing to take their money, telling them he’s not taking new clients. Then we hear Madoff’s voice-over saying, “You present it as an exclusive thing, an elite club for the chosen few. Nothing on earth makes people want something more than telling them they can’t have it.”
Dryfuss told the post he empathizes with his subject, despite the larceny that earned him 150 years in prison. “When he was a young man, he did the thing that any smart businessman would do: he covered the losses himself,” Dreyfuss said. “And he knew instinctively that he was going to gain the respect and awe of his clients. He didn’t set out to cheat anybody … Did he think of himself as a criminal? He didn’t. Not until he was buying his clothes from London. And buying a house in the South of France. By then he knew he was a criminal.”
Madoff is portrayed in the mini-series as a devoted family man. His sons, brother, niece, and his wife Ruth worked for him, but not for the Ponzi scheme, which was conducted a few floors below Madoff’s main office. They spent a lot of time together. Then his sons turned him in and died tragically, one by suicide, one from cancer, shortly thereafter.