Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
About ten years ago, a couple of whistleblowers blew the frigging lid off a national crisis – the impending collapse of the global economy. The saw the things the banks, the media and the government callously refused to acknowledge. Director Adam McKay’s highly entertaining THE BIG SHORT is the story of how coincidence met opportunity for that group of “outsiders and weirdos” – who include Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team of dedicated workers (Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong).
At the film’s recent Los Angeles press day, the stars and affable director spoke about everything from how levity is interjected into such a serious topic, to what scene ended up on the cutting room floor, to if they met with their real-life counterparts.
8. THE OTHER GUYS inspired Adam McKay to make THE BIG SHORT. He stated, I’d done some research for a movie I’d done called The Other Guys which was supposed to be a comedic parable of the collapse. I started reading all the books I could get my hands on and at a certain point when you’re doing that, you come across The Big Short. I picked it up around nine o’clock and couldn’t put it down. It had this page turning energy to it, yet at the same time, it was explaining financial esoterica to me. Then at the same time, the characters were heartbreaking and real and specific. It’s just amazing to say about a book that’s about mortgage backed securities, but it was a roller coaster ride.”
7. Christian Bale had to play drums with a knee injury. Ryan Gosling spilled the beans on this fun fact, stating, “It was tough to follow the first Christian week. The first thing I said to Adam was, “How’s it going?” He said, ‘Oh, Christian learned how to double kickdrum the drums.’ With a catastrophic knee industry.”
6. Technical terms dealing with finance are explained in an understandable way – utilizing celebrity cameos! McKay said, “The idea goes back to What is our popular culture telling us? What is the information that it’s giving us? The idea of taking these pop icons, these familiar faces that we’re used to seeing in a very fun, entertaining format suddenly telling us real salient financial information. That is definitely a theme we had in the movie. We also think practically too that there’s just no way to explain these complex instruments without some sort of device. When the idea came about of let’s play with pop icons, let’s play with our popular culture, somehow it felt right. We wanted to it to feel like it connected to the world at large – especially for the collapse when people really were suffering. I tried to stay connected to all of that.”
5. Selena Gomez held Professor Dick Thaler’s hand the whole scene and Margot Robbie got drunk in the bathtub. Huzzah! McKay elucidated, “I think the funniest was that you have this guy, Professor Dick Thaler, who’s probably about to win a Nobel Prize, next to Selena Gomez. Selena Gomez ends up holding his hand through the scene because he’s not a performer. This guy could be one of the 20 minds on planet Earth who could get us through a crisis like this. When Margot Robbie showed up, she knew every line. There was one take where I was like, “Margot, just at the end go, ‘So fuck off.’” She did it so funny I was like ‘Oh, that’s going in.’ Then we had a bottle of fake champagne and I was like, ‘I actually have a nice bottle of champagne.’ She said, ‘Get it out here!’ She got a little bit tipsy when she was doing it.”
4. Ryan Gosling loved Jared’s jheri curl. He joked, “You had me at Jheri curl.” However, what really sold him on being in the film was his love of STEP BROTHERS. “I love Adam’s movies and in some ways they’re not even movies. They’re like friends of mine or something. Like, I’ll check in with STEP BROTHERS to see how it’s doing. I think Adam has, especially in combination with Michael [Lewis], their work, it’s very unique. It’s very inclusive and there’s not grandstanding. Adam has a way of maintaining a sense of humor about something that’s obviously very upsetting.”
3. Christian Bale didn’t mind being by himself for most of the shoot. He said, “I really love just working by myself. Adam would have a mic and he’s just talk shit to me whilst I was in the office or made fun of what I was doing or whatever. It’s amazing how much you can get done when there’s nobody else. We shot for nine days. We banged out the pages so quick. When you’re by yourself, you don’t have continuity to worry about a all. So each and every take I just did whatever the bloody hell you want.
2. A few of the stars met their real-life counterparts. Steve Carell shared, “We had breakfast and I went over to his apartment, met his family and he came to set a few times as well. I got to pick his brain and find out about how he factored into this world.” Bale said, “I did meet with Mike Burry. I just think the guy’s wonderful. He’s such a charming man and so phenomenally interesting. We talked for hours and hours. And incredibly generous with his time and his thoughts to me. I really wish that I can see it with him one day.” Gosling also chose to meet with the person he was portraying. “I got a chance to meet the guy my character’s based on. The situation was a little bit different in my case because the character I play in the film has a role in the film but he’s the narrator and sort of tour guide through this world. At times felt like a talk show host, to sort of break the fourth wall and introduce a new guest or a new segment. We really had to take some liberties with that character obviously.”
1. Adam McKay let Hamish Linklater and Rafe Spall ad-lib. Linklater confessed, “Adam gave us so much confidence and so much leeway. He even let Rafe and me do a whole separate scene. I don’t know if the cameras were actually rolling, but there’s a beautiful scene where Steve is with a stripper. Outside, Rafe and I are having this massive scene eating noodles in the strip club. I was like, ‘This is going to be in the movie. We’re hilarious.’” It, however, didn’t make final cut. Linklater followed up, “He’s got taste – that’s the big thing about Adam McKay.”
“Hey Girl. I got a junket question for you: Wanna get out of here?”
THE BIG SHORT opens in limited release on December 11 and wide on December 23. Read our review here.