'Mother' star's dream year continues with 'Wolf of Wall Street' role

Cristin Milioti stars opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Best Picture

To say it's been a whirlwind year for actress Cristin Miloti is a huge understatement. Since last fall, she's been playing the titular role for the hit sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," and in December, she appeared in one of the most buzzed-about films of the year with director Martin Scorsese's Best Picture Oscar-nominated "The Wolf of Wall Street."

New on Blu-ray and DVD (Paramount Home Media Distribution), "The Wolf of Wall Street" is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a low-level stockbroker who reinvents himself after the firm he's working for on Wall Street goes bust in the Black Monday stock market crash in October 1987. Starting over in penny stocks, Belfort and his willing recruits quickly build their own firm on highly lucrative fraudulent deals, and live greedy, decadent lifestyles propelled by sex and drugs as the federal government desperately tries to nail them for securities fraud.

Milioti plays the pivotal role of Teresa Petrillo, Belfort's first wife -- who in reality was Denise Lombardo.

Like many people, Milioti didn't even know who Jordan Belfort was going into the project, but once she started reading his autobiography, she found what he did shocking and "incredibly depressing," especially considering he spent all but 36 months in a minimum security prison for his offenses.

"He swindled so many people and there was such gluttony there -- such greed," Milioti told me in an interview this week. "The book is from his perspective, though, and as repentant as he may seem, it is also told, with what I found anyway, a sort of wink, like, 'I got away with it,' even though he went to prison. He certainly got away with things, though. I wasn't familiar with him before the project though. I thought to myself after reading the script, 'This couldn't all have happened,' and then I read the book and according to Mr. Belfort, it did."

Since Lombardo didn't want her name used in the film, it shouldn't come as a shock that she wasn't accessible to Milioti for research. Still, the 28-year-old actress says, she remains fascinated by what Belfort's scorned ex went through.

"I'd be interested in hearing what her side of the story was," Milioti said. "They were married for years and she was with him since the beginning. She was with him because she loved him, and not for his money."

Because of the woman's plight, Milioti certainly doesn't blame Lombardo for distancing herself from the film.

"No one would want to re-live what she went through," Milioti said. "Plus -- and the movie didn't show this -- she was dragged through the tabloids when everything with Jordan was happening. She was only 25 years old, and people were saying -- and Jordan mentions it in the book -- that he traded her in for a better model, essentially. That's terrible. I never would want to have someone revisit that period in their life when they obviously don't want to."

The release of "The Wolf of Wall Street" comes about a week before the series finale of "How I Met Your Mother," which is wrapping up its ninth and final season on CBS. And while Milioti was only a part of the sitcom's ensemble for one season, she said she's taking the end of the sitcom hard.

"I am mourning, but I feel guilty about it because I feel I don't have the right to," Milioti said with a laugh. "I was so sad when the show wrapped. I sobbed on the set."

Milioti said what's even more amazing than her personal experience is her discovery how invested fans are in the show, especially given the rampant rumors of late that surmise a morbid fate for her character. In fact, Milioti said she was taken aback by all of the emotion at the recent TV fan festival PaleyFest in Los Angeles.

"We did the panel in the same theater as the Oscars, filled the auditorium with 2,500 people and took questions from fans," Milioti said. "To see how much this show has affected people's live and to see how invested they are, is incredible. It's what you hope and dream for as a performer. It's the ultimate dream to have people that invested in your character."

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie journalist and the author of the new ebook Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton)