Gordon Gekko is a fictional character who appears as the villain in the popular 1987 Oliver Stone movie "Wall Street" and its 2010 sequel "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." The character, a ruthless and wildly wealthy investor and corporate raider, has become a cultural symbol for greed, as epitomized by the famous "Wall Street" quote "Greed is good."
Breaking Down Gordon Gekko
In "Wall Street," the protagonist, a young stockbroker named Bud Fox, is desperate to work with Gordon Gekko, who is a legend in the world of finance. Predatory, amoral Gekko is only impressed when Fox is willing to compromise his ethics and provide Gekko with inside information about his father's company. Gekko makes Fox wealthy, but eventually, Fox regrets what he has done and turns state's evidence against Gekko, who is sent to prison for securities fraud and insider trading.
For his portrayal of Gordon Gekko in the original film, Michael Douglas won an Academy Award.
Influences for the Character of Gordon Gekko
The character of Gordon Gekko was not based on any one person, but rather on a composite of real-life financiers. Stanley Weiser, who co-wrote the screenplay with Oliver Stone, claimed that Gekko was partially based on corporate raider Carl Icahn, disgraced stock trader Ivan Boesky, and investor Michael Ovitz.
The famous Gekko quote "Greed is good" echoes a speech Boesky gave in 1985 at the University of California Berkeley School of Business Administration, when he said, "I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."
Gekko's penthouse office and elegant suits were modeled after those of art collector Asher Edelman. Weiser adds that some of Gekko's blunt, workaholic dialogue is lifted from the phone calls and work sessions of the film's director and co-writer Oliver Stone.
The film's producer, Ed Pressman, stated that one of the inspirations for Gordon Gekko was Michael Milken. In the 1980s, Milken gained a reputation as the "Junk Bond King," but he was arrested in 1989 and convicted of multiple counts of fraud and racketeering. Oliver Stone looks to his father as the inspiration for the overall film of "Wall Street," as his father was a broker and frequently lamented the lack of good movies on business.
Emulation of Gordon Gekko
Despite the fact that Gordon Gekko was clearly a villain in "Wall Street," many aspiring financiers saw him as a mythical antihero. They adopted the character as a role model of how to survive in the cutthroat culture of investment finances. To counter this image, Michael Douglas worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2012 to create a documentary exposing inside trading. The actor who played Gordon Gekko was concerned that people see the character as a criminal and not a role model.