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On Friday Nov 13, Paramount Pictures’ film The Big Short hosted a press conference at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. After screening the film the night before, press was able to discuss the movie with those involved in creating it. Participating talent included: Actors Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Hamish Linklater, Producer Jeremy Kleiner, Screenwriter Charles Randolph, Author Michael Lewis, and Director Adam McKay.
The Big Short is a movie about a group of lucky Wall Street men who made out big after betting against the housing industry, investing in credit default swaps, predicting the financial crash of 2008. Carell, Gosling, and Bale’s characters are all based on real-life people. Director Adam McKay created an adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine”. McKay began the conference by explaining his desire to share this story on the big-screen.
“I started reading all the books I could get my hands on and a certain point when you are doing that you come across The Big Short. And a bunch of people told me I have to read it…I picked it up around 9:00 and was in bed and just started reading it and couldn’t put it down. It had this page turning energy to it. Yet at the same time it was explaining financial esoteric to me and then at the same time the characters were heart breaking and real and specific…When I was done with it I was just like, this is one of the books of our times.”
Q. For you Jeremy, people have a hard time describing this movie or categorizing this movie. As a producer, how would you describe this film?
A. Jeremy Kleiner:
“I like to describe this film not by using found language used to describe other categories of films but rather to treat it as its own terms. I think the film is a supremely personal expression of a filmmaker in command…I think the cast that is up here today expressed that in the range of their work. I love to talk about the film as Adam’s film that expresses his personal sensibility in a wonderful way.”
Q. Steve, staying on Adam for a second, you have obviously worked with Adam a lot before. What do you think it is about Adam that makes him the right person to write this movie?
A. Steve Carell:
“He’s weird! Smart, weird guy. We’ve known each other since the late 80s… He’s always the funniest person in the room. Every time I work with him he is always the person with the most unique and funniest idea. The idea you wish that you had. The one that when he gives it to you, you hope you don’t screw up. I agree, I think he is the perfect choice to do this. When we first talked about the script, Adam said it is very dense and complicated material but more than anything I want it to be entertaining. And I thought the script reflected that. Ya he is sort of the dream director to work with as an actor.”
Q. Ryan, what was it that attracted you to this particular character and the movie frankly. What made you want to do it?
A. Ryan Gosling:
“The jheri curl. You had me at jheri curl! You know I love Adam’s movies and in some ways they are not even movies, they are like friends of mine or something. I will check in with Stepbrothers and see how it’s doing. I love them and to be able to work with him at all was exciting and then to get this script and see it’s sort of a departure for him and to be a part of that as well has made it more exciting. I have learned a lot from the script, and the book, and the research process. I think Adam and even with a combination of Michael, their work its very unique this film. Its very inclusive and there is no grandstanding. Adam has a way of maintaining a sense of humor about something that is obviously very upsetting.”
Q. Christian, most of your scenes are alone. Is that easier or more difficult to work that way? Secondarily, what was it like to see the film for the first time having not necessarily work with everybody?
A. Christian Bale:
“I didn’t meet with anybody. I just met Steve last night. Ryan and I have met before. I really love just working by myself. It’s so much fun!…But it’s amazing how much you can get done when there is nobody else. I mean we shot for nine days I think and we just banged out pages so quick. And when you are by yourself there is no real continuity you gotta worry about. So each and every take you can do whatever you bloody want. So I prefer to make every film that way. Sounds great.”
Q. Charles, you were the first person to sort of tackle Michael’s book. How did you approach that task and what was the most difficult part of that process?
A. Charles Randolph:
“Plan B and I agreed early on that we were going to honor the book and the complexity of the narrative in terms of all these characters and all these arcs. It was really a matter of figuring out how to dramatize this information and how to do it in the most entertaining way possible. Adam, added this layer to it that was just genius. His ability to deepen it and make it entertaining on a whole different way. Adams voice brought it all together.”
Q. Michael Lewis, why do your books make such good movies? And secondarily, is there a book of yours that you would like to see turn into a movie?
A. Michael Lewis:
“None of my books were written as movies. I didn’t have in the back of my mind when I decided to write about credit default swaps that someone was going to make a movie of it…I think the books have been lucky in the hands they’ve landed in, in the movie business…It tracks passionate interest. (answering the second part of the question) “Liar’s Poker” was my first and it seems to me the most obvious. And I have actually written a script for it…I think people don’t want to go see a movie about Wall Street. It’s a hard subject to get to a popular audience.”
Q. I would love to ask Steve, Christian, and Ryan if you met your counterparts before you did the movie?
A. Steve Carell:
“I did, I met the person this was based on. We had breakfast and I went over to his apartment and met his family. So ya I got to pick his brain and find out how he factored into this world. And I was frankly surprised to be offered this part. I was very excited. Although I felt like one of these things is not like the other. When you say Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale. I talked to Adam before I started, and Christian was shooting his stuff, and we were talking about characters. And I said, ‘How’s it going’ and he said ‘Christian is unbelievable. It’s incredible. It’s transcendent.’ And I’m like great! I get to follow that! So it was intimidating because this entire cast is full of great actors. Every part really stands on its own.”
A. Christian Bale:
“I did meet with Mike Burry and I just think the guy is wonderful. He is such a charming man and so phenomenally interesting and we talked for hours and hours. And incredibly generous with his time and his thoughts to me. I really wish I could see it with him one day.”
A. Ryan Gosling:
“Yes, I got a chance to meet the guy that my character is based on. The situation was little different in my case as well because the character that I play has a role in the film but he is also the narrator and tour guide through this world and sometimes felt like talk time host. I would have to break the forth wall and introduce a new guest or new segment. I really had to take some liberties with that character because obviously it’s very different from the real person.”
Q. There is a layer of levity I love. I am just curious about your inspiration for some of the scenes where we saw people you would never expect, like Selena Gomez or Chef Anthony Bourdain explaining a very complex financial transaction. How did that come about?
A. Adam McKay:
“Taking these pop icons and familiar faces we are use to seeing everyday, in a fun entertaining format, suddenly telling us real salient financial information. In the case of Selena Gomez, we know her as a pop star and suddenly she is explaining one of the more complex financial instruments you can buy. That was a definite theme throughout the movie. We also knew practically too that there is just no way to explain these complex instruments without some sort of device. When the idea came about with well let’s play with pop icons, let’s play with popular culture, somehow it felt right.”
Q. Sometimes, it’s too much to follow. Do you follow the Wall Street Journal?
A. Christian Bale:
“For me, I am terrible with numbers. It went in one ear and stayed there throughout filming and as soon as I was done filming it went out the other ear again. What I found with watching the film, it’s entertaining first and foremost and so you get it…The industry tries to make you feel dumb and it works. You understood the point and that’s the whole essence of it. I was really surprised and really proud of myself that I did get it.”
The Big Short hits theaters December 11th with a limited release and world wide December 23rd.