“You never, ever think about awards,” declares writer/director Adam McKay as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his hot Oscar contender “The Big Short.” He and Charles Randolph are the frontrunners to win Oscars for their adaptation of Michael Lewis‘ bestseller of the same name about the financial crisis that followed the housing market collapse in 2007. And McKay also contends for Best Director.
He spoke candidly about the making of the movie, which won Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America last month and is a strong contender to do the same at the Oscars on Feb. 28. “We knew we had this amazing cast, we knew we had this titanic, important subject. Our goal was to get a conversation going. Our goal was to reignite the sort of bank reform dialogue in our country.” He observes, “Obviously, we worked as hard as we could to make the movie accessible for mainstream audiences so they could participate in this. At the end of the day, it definitely met and exceeded our goals.”
McKay credits producers Brad Pitt, Dede Garner and Jeremy Kleiner with helping facilitate his vision. “They’re such supporters of filmmakers, so throughout the whole process they were so open to these ideas, like breaking the fourth wall and the way we shot it. At the same time, they’re really smart people, so they were constantly chiming in when we were putting the cast together, when we were making decisions about how and what we were going to shoot, script notes.”
Pitt also plays a small role in the film as a retired banker advising a pair of novices (Finn Wittrock and John Magaro). McKay says he wasn’t intimidated about directing one of his producers. “Make no mistake about it: the second Brad showed up on set as an actor, he was a full actor.”
He also had high praise for the rest of the all-star ensemble, including past Oscar nominees Steve Carrell (“Foxcatcher”) and Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson”) as well as Oscar champ Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) who reaped a Supporting Actor bid for his work in this film.
He describes Carrell — a collaborator from the “Anchorman” comedies — as an actor “who can transform, but in a grounded way. He’s a guy who never gives up on a scene, is always looking for it to be original, to find the spark that cuts across what you would expect.”
Gosling, meanwhile, had one of the trickier roles to play. “I needed someone in that role who could play the narrator of the movie, but at the same time, give a grounded, committed, lively performance as a character. I just kept coming back to his name as I was writing the script.”
As for the casting of Bale, whose character predicts the collapse before anyone else, he explains, “I needed an actor who was selfless, who would subsume himself to the character.” McKay piqued Bales’ interest by describing the character, who rarely leaves his office, as, “almost an aggressively introverted guy who’s the hero. How many times has that happened in history where you’ve had an introvert as a hero?”
What do you think will win Best Picture at the Oscars? Make your predictions using the menu to the right or below.