In The Big Short, Steve Carell as the head of a hedge fund called FrontPoint is aided and abetted by three analysts who travel everywhere with him: Porter Collins (Hamish Linklater), Vinny Daniel (Jeremy Strong) and Danny Moses (Rafe Spall). These are the guys who crunch the numbers, do the research and ultimately warn Carell’s character, Mark Baum, that the kind of business they’re getting into — trades backed by bundles of shaky, liable to fail mortgages — is going to make them a lot of money but is also likely to wreak havoc on the economy.
Strong has an impressive rack of screen credits that includes roles in Black Mass, Selma, Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, while Linklater, who started out on the stage, has been seen in 42, Magic in the Moonlight, Battleship and the 2005 version of Fantastic Four.
Were your characters based on real people and did you get to meet with them?
Jeremy Strong: Yeah. Vinny and Porter and Danny Moses run a hedge fund now in New York, and so we went and spent time with them there. You know, I think we all felt a real responsibility to portraying these guys authentically, and also, it’s wonderful as an actor when you have something — source material is what it is. They informed what we all did — we wanted to be true to them.
What was your own experience like in terms of how much you knew about this crisis and how much did you learn as a result of doing this movie?
Hamish Linklater: My personal experience of it was I bought a house right before the housing crisis happened. So I paid too much and then I was stuck with it for a long time. So that was sad for me. I was like, “I’d better make a movie about this to get it out of my system.”
Jeremy Strong: I knew nothing about it. Absolutely nothing. I had to do a lot of work to learn enough about it to tell the story. But, you know, I’ve had my own personal financial crisis being an actor for a long time, but otherwise I was in the same boat as a lot of the audience. So the movie illuminated what happened for me in the way that I hope it will for everyone.
I see these guys almost as little angels and devils on the shoulders of Steve’s character. They’re telling him, “You could do this and we could make a lot of money, but we’ll also destroy the economy.” Is that how you visualized these guys?
Jeremy Strong: I think that’s really valid. I mean, I think I kind of saw it as Robin Hood and his band of merry men. He’s on a crusade and he wants to — you know, it’s not quite as — it’s morally a bit of a quagmire, I think. There’s a real conflict because we’re benefiting on the backs of other people’s loss. It comes with a heavy price, and I think the film doesn’t try to let anyone off easy in that sense.
Steve is so intense in his role and generates so much rage. Did you just respond to that in a way to balance him?
Hamish Linklater: Well it’s so nice, the way that Adam makes the movie, because the camera’s always moving around. So it feels very fluid and good. And Steve has such like a, he’s always burrowing closer and closer in each take to the real moment in the scene, and so it’s really fun to do that with him.
Let me ask each of you what you have coming up after this?
Jeremy Strong: I don’t know yet. There’s a couple of things that I’m interested in and an independent film that I’m trying to get up on the rails, but I don’t know.
Hamish Linklater: I’m doing an independent movie version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s going to be good.
Jeremy Strong: He’s also a brilliant Shakespearean actor…
Hamish Linklater: You probably picked that up from my answers!
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.