Ryan Gosling’s character in The Big Short, Jared Vennett, is a slick opportunist and Wall Street dealmaker who sees the potential in short-term gains by betting against the housing market — knowing full well that the whole thing is built on a foundation of nothing (in fact, in one memorable scene, he used a Jenga block-stacking game to visualize what can happen). He’s also the movie’s narrator, sometimes speaking directly to the audience as he leads us down the rabbit hole of bizarro financial terms like “tranche” and “collateralized debt obligation.”
We spoke with Gosling at the film’s press junket about playing Vennett, wrapping his head around the terminology, whether he wants to direct again, and working with Terrence Malick on an upcoming film. And yes, we tried to get him to say something about Blade Runner 2…
Your character is based on a real-life person named Greg Lippmann.
Ryan Gosling: Right.
You got to meet him and spend some time with him. What did you learn from talking with him?
You know, it was a little different in my case in this film, because although I’m playing a character that’s loosely based on a real person, my character’s also the narrator of the film and he’s also the tour guide through this world. And so a lot of liberties had to be taken, you know. And I thought that Lippmann was very cool about understanding that, you know, that obviously this film was about communicating this overall idea and how this happened, and it wasn’t about any one specific character.
So he was very cool and very helpful in helping me understand more just the sort of financial aspects of what was going on. I forget them all now but he was very helpful at that time. It was like cramming for a test.
How important is it for you to know, when you’re saying the lines — like for example, actors who have done Star Trek don’t always know what they’re saying…
It’s like Klingon or something.
Yeah. So when you talk about this financial stuff, is it important for you to have some sort of mastery of it?
Well in this case you kind of had to, because (director Adam) McKay likes to improvise so much and so he’ll just hit you with like, “Hey, just lay into him about your negative carry. Go for it.” You’re like, “Okay.” So you have to know what that means and you have to know what that is. But I think we all enjoyed the challenge of it. I don’t think any of us were people that were interested before the film.
So McKay likes to spring pop quizzes on you in the middle of shooting.
He likes to shake it up. That’s what he’s kind of doing with this movie and that’s what he did to us. He’s incredibly smart, he’s very knowledgeable about this subject in particular, but he’s also very passionate about it and at the same time, no matter how angry something makes him, he still can maintain a sense of humor about it. So he’s a great guy to work with and for.
You’ve directed already once (Lost River), do you plan to do it again if you get the opportunity?
Do you keep learning from the directors that you work with?
Any projects that you have in mind?
Yeah, I’m…you know…cooking some things up.
And you’re involved with Blade Runner 2 at this point.
How far along are you in terms of, have you seen the script and do you know where things are at for your character?
I do. They put a chip in me and I’ll explode if I say any more, but I’m very excited about that.
You also worked recently with Terence Malick on, I think it’s called Weightless…
I don’t know what the name is just yet, but yeah, I got a chance to work with Mr. Malick.
What was that experience like?
Unlike any other experience, you know. He’s an incredible person to work with and be around.
What do you want audiences to take away from this film (The Big Short)?
There’s so much to take away from this film that I think everyone will take something different from it, you know. I know I learned a lot — not only from making it, but even just from seeing it, you know. I’m not trying to push that it’s educational because I know that’s not going to make people run out to see it, but it’s as entertaining as it is educational. But it’s a very unique film, I think. It has its own — I mean, it’s as unique as Adam McKay is, and I’m very proud of it and I hope that people like it.
When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything. Based on the true story and best-selling book by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Moneyball), and directed by Adam Mckay (Anchorman, Step Brothers) The BigShort stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.
The Big Short is now playing in limited release. It will expand nationwide on December 23, 2015.