Robert De Niro goes full twisted Madoff in new HBO drama: ‘I thought this was a comedy!’

2017 Winter TCA Tour - Day 10
Executive producer/director Barry Levinson, left, and executive producer/actor Robert De Niro discuss HBO’s “The Wizard of Lies” at the 2017 Winter Television Critics Assn. Press Tour. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

The question at hand is whether Bernie Madoff, architect of this country’s largest private Ponzi scheme, is a sociopath.

“There’s a disconnect somehow in him,” De Niro said during the panel for the upcoming HBO film “The Wizard of Lies” at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. “I’d still like to understand, but I don’t.”

The author of “Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust,” Diana B. Henriques, felt differently.

“Yes,” Henriques said matter-of-factly of Madoff’s sociopathic nature. “But it doesn’t explain anything to say he’s a sociopath. What you need to understand is how plausible con men like this are, how utterly they can seize your trust and your imagination and make you believe.”

De Niro, who stars and also serves as an executive producer on the project, was joined with Henriques on the panel by executive producers Jane Rosenthal and Barry Levinson, who also directed the film.

The film, which features Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff, is not Hollywood’s…