- Margot Robbie, in hot tub, explains subprime mortgage crisis
- Based on Michael Lewis book, film opens nationwide on Dec. 23
Making "The Big Short," about investors who foresaw the collapse of the housing market and made money short-selling it, left Brad Pitt with little faith in financial reform.
"The fact that no one was held accountable for this drives me crazy," Pitt said at the New York premiere of the film Monday night. "There’s something seriously wrong. You talk to the experts now and nothing’s changed. The same practices are still going on."
The Paramount film opens in limited release on Dec. 11 and nationwide on Dec. 23. In one scene, Pitt reminds a pair of euphoric younger traders he’s working with that their bet against subprime mortgages is a bet against the American economy.
On the red carpet outside the Ziegfeld Theatre, Pitt said his heart goes out to the people who lost their homes and jobs due to subprime mortgages and the financial collapse of 2008. “Too many people got hurt,” he said. “People can get hurt again.”
Adam McKay, the director and co-screenwriter, said the 2016 presidential candidates “are doing a terrible job” talking about banking or financial reform. (He’s endorsed Bernie Sanders.) He wants his film to get to “regular people, people in North Carolina, Tennessee. Real people have got to get over their intimidation with banking and have conversations about it."
To explain some of the jargon of finance, McKay has actress Margot Robbie define terms for the viewer while in a bubble bath, sipping champagne, which is just one of the ways McKay "made an entertaining film out of very dry material," as Pitt put it.
As for the actors’ mastery of the terms: "Credit default swaps on collateralized debt obligations, that was fun," said Finn Wittrock, who plays one of the traders Pitt assists. “It’s always fun to improvise about collateralized debt obligations: CDS’s on CDO’s of CD double DDs."
Hamish Linklater, known for his mastery of Shakespeare at the Public Theater’s season in Central Park, said “CDO is the one thing that I can remember, and it’s not a compact disc organization, as it turns out."
Asked to invent a term, Linklater said: ‘FALAFEL -- financial assisted laugh aha financial extra laugh aha” before realizing that he had actually spelled “FALAFELA.”
Porter Collins -- the real-life Brown graduate played by Linklater in the film -- attended the premiere with former colleagues from FrontPoint Partners, including boss Steve Eisman, Vincent Daniel, Danny Moses and Marc Rosenthal.
Collins said there was ‘zero, no, less than zero" chance that regulation would change Wall Street. Yet he’s still working in finance, at Seawolf Capital, a hedge fund he started with Daniel and Moses.
"We just keep on grinding," Collins said. “At least we’re honest."
Some of the subjects of the book who attended the screening were Greg Lippmann (who worked at Deutsche Bank during the crisis), played by Ryan Gosling; Charlie Ledley, who was fictionalized in the film as the other half of the “garage” hedge fund Pitt assists; and Michael Burry, the doctor with a glass eye who spotted the impending collapse of the housing market early on. He’s played by Christian Bale. The book was written by Michael Lewis, who is also a columnist for Bloomberg View.
John Magaro -- who plays the character based on Ledley -- said if he were to invest with anyone chronicled in the film, it would be Burry, “because he was the one who was first."
Wittrock said he’d invest with his on-screen self and partner. “For sure, I’d trust those guys. They’re always looking for things that people don’t expect to happen. Whenever people are expecting everything to be the same, they will go in and bet against that. If they’re wrong, they have little losses. If they’re right they make a lot."
And has he lined up a money manager with those attributes? “No, I wish. Do you have a number?"