In The Big Short, four outsiders predict the credit crunch and housing bubble collapse of the late 2000s, and take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
Not too clued up on the financial crash? Worry not. Writer and director Adam McKay’s cracking film not only educates but entertains in bucket loads.
McKay, probably best known as the man behind Will Ferrell comedies Step Brothers and the two Anchorman films, became determined to flex other cinematic muscles after reading Michael Lewis’ best-selling book ‘The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.’
“I started reading the book at around 10:30 at night and thought, ‘I’ll just read 40 pages,’” McKay recalls. “I couldn’t put it down. I ended up reading the whole thing that night and finished at six in the morning. The next day I told my wife about the characters and how the book weaves together all these different storylines and how it’s like a ‘get rich’ story that’s ultimately about the fall of the banking system, corruption and complacency, and how it’s funny and it’s heartbreaking at the same time. And she’s like, ‘You should do it.’ And I said, ‘I’m the guy who did Step Brothers.’ I didn’t even look into it, because I just assumed a Scott Rudin or a Plan B had already bought the rights to this book.”
Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B had indeed optioned the book, partnering with Paramount Pictures. Plan B had also adapted Michael Lewis’s ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’ and Oscar-winning producer, Jeremy Kleiner (12 Years a Slave) saw striking similarities.
“Moneyball and The Big Short both look at familiar subjects that people think they understand and ask big questions,” says Kleiner. “The Big Short also has this very distinctive element in that the protagonists are not ‘do-gooders.’ We thought all of that was very exciting, so Paramount, our partner, stepped up to acquire the rights. That started the journey for us.”
Plan B sent McKay an early version of a screenplay written by Charles Randolph. “I saw some good stuff in the script and I also knew exactly how to make it better,” McKay says. “I met with Jeremy and Plan B president Dede Gardner and gave them my pitch.”
The resulting collaboration between Randolph and McKay is a script that takes a pretty convoluted topic and turns it into a film that is always entertaining and crammed full of smart lines, while never losing focus of the serious ramifications of the financial crash. Bringing McKay on board was inspired. Keep your eye out for a selection of ‘celebrity explainers’, a unique and entertaining way to explain some core concepts for us.
“People need to know this stuff in order to follow the story, but when you first hear phrases like ‘collateralized debt obligation’ or ‘credit default swap,’ they make you feel stupid and bored,” McKay says. “Bankers do everything they can to make these transactions seem really complicated, so we came up with the idea of having celebrities pop up on the screen throughout the movie and explain things directly to the audience.”
The film boasts a top notch cast including Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. Bale has rightly received an Oscar nomination but all of the cast are all on the top of their game and help to make The Big Short a gripping film which is ‘big’ on entertainment.
The Big Short is at Showcase Cinemas from 22 January