Photo-Illustration By William Duke For Forbes
In 1987, Forbes and Fortune fought over a high-profile fictional scoop—a cover story on Gordon Gekko. Both magazines were vying for a cameo in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, and delivering a fake cover featuring Michael Douglas as the legendary corporate raider (as well as some actual promotional ads) was the price of admission. In the end, Fortune produced that Gekko cover for Stone, but over the 30 years since we all learned that greed is good, Forbes has played a prominent role in the faux backstories of other moviedom moguls.
Many covers—including Bruce Wayne from the Batman films and Tony Stark from the first Iron Man movie—were created without Forbes’s knowledge. (Which explains why Stark’s first Forbes cover includes a glaring typo—“Tony Stark Takes Reigns at 21.” It’s spelled “reins.”) Other covers—including Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnell for The Boss, Jamie Foxx as President James Sawyer in White House Down and Steve Martin as Norm Oglesby in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk—were created with permission. For 2016’s Gold, a 1980s vintage cover was designed to show Matthew McConaughey’s career arc as Kenny Wells. Not only is the logo correct for 1988, but the cover price ($3.75) is accurate for the year.
And sometimes an actual Forbes cover is re-created to give verisimilitude to a film that’s based on a true story. Movie audiences saw a double take of Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange (with replicated cover lines from the real 2010 cover) in 2013’s The Fifth Estate.
As for Gekko, Forbes caught up with him in 2010. Timed to the release of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Forbes India ran a cover story featuring Michael Douglas that declared: “Greed Is Back.” There was no follow-up, however, on the fate of Bluestar Airlines or Anacott Steel.