" ... even people on the inside didn't have an exact understanding of the crisis, so there was a natural unfolding of comprehension that we were able to use."
Was it difficult to translate Andrew Ross Sorkin's book into something that could be filmed?
The project didn't start out as an adaptation. We knew we wanted to do something about the financial crisis. So I spent time with our two consultants, Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean, and went to the trading floors and to Washington, D.C. We realized that the level of detail and granularity we wanted to convey would require some extraordinary reporting. That's when we came up with the idea of using Andrew's book. We were looking for a way to tell the story of the crisis in real human terms and that's what the book does. When director Curtis Hanson came on board he gave it even more of a dramatic focus.
How did you explain the complex financial maneuverings at the center of the film?
It was difficult. There are characters like Henry Paulson and the people he works with, and they're all experts. They use the language they’re used to, which is the language of finance. You don't want to dumb it down for your audience. What we had going for us was that even people on the inside didn't have an exact understanding of the crisis, so there was a natural unfolding of comprehension that we were able to use. When Lehman goes down and everyone is talking about it and wondering what the hell is going on, those conversations allow us to clue in the audience on what was happening. Still, our feeling was that we could be nuanced and sophisticated with this audience. It was made to be understood by lay people who were paying attention.
How did you feel about giving voice to some of the most well-known faces of Wall Street?
They're all public figures and Andrew has spent a lot time with them, so we had a lot of information about something like, how would Dick Fuld feel about this. Someone like Ben Bernanke experiences the entire crisis in a vastly different way, from more of an academic angle. Then there's someone like Hank Paulson who is focused and direct. All of these different rhythms going on add to the film's drama.
Why use Paulson's as the film's center?
That was one of the biggest decisions when it came to framing the movie. Paulson was in a unique position, for better or for worse. He spent his whole career on Wall Street, without being of Wall Street. He's a down-to-earth Midwesterner, not the designer suit kind of guy. But at the same time, he was the highest paid exec on Wall Street for a considerable amount of time. He leaves one of the key positions on Wall Street, the head of Goldman Sachs, and goes to work for the government for various reasons. One thing we had to leave out of the film was that his mother really disapproved of his decision to join the Bush administration.