Joe O’Neill has been around the futures markets since 1970. If you stick around long enough, you will have seen just about everything.
Such was the case in 1983 when he was proposed with the idea of filming a movie, “Trading Places” at the New York Board of Trade. Now celebrating its 30th Anniversary, “Trading Places” is still considered the go-to movie when anyone in the industry talks about the futures markets, even if the floors ain’t what they used to be.
O’Neill served as a consultant to the film, which starred Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis. The plot involves switching the lives of Aykroyd, a commodities broker, and Murphy, a street hustler, in a bet by the Duke brothers, two wealthy siblings played by Bellamy and Ameche. It also leads to an attempt by the brothers to manipulate the orange juice market which is derailed by Aykroyd and Murphy, leaving the Dukes broke.
O’Neill presented the idea to his board, saying he didn’t think they’d want a Hollywood film shot on their trading floor. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised to get the green light from them. Not only that, but he helped get real floor traders to show up on Saturdays to serve as extras in the movie. It also put frozen orange juice futures on the map.
O’Neill spoke with JLN editor-at-large Doug Ashburn about the making of “Trading Places,” how true the film is to real life and also shared some behind-the-scenes stories about the movie.
The film was a smash hit in the summer of 1983, and was a top 10 grossing movie that year for 17 weeks. At a cost of $15 million, it went on to earn more than $90 million in theaters in 1983, making it the fourth-highest grossing movie of that year.
O’Neill is now retired from his role as senior executive vice president at the New York Board of Trade. He worked at the New York Cotton Exchange from 1970 to 1998, eventually becoming president and CEO. He has also served senior positions at the New York Board of Trade, which was sold to the Intercontinental Exchange in 2006, as well as at the Cantor Futures Exchange.