Director Curtis Hanson’s Film Has No Heroes and No Villains
HBO: How were you able to tell the story of the financial crisis as a dramatic film?
CURTIS HANSON: We used Andrew Ross Sorkin's book, about a subject you might think is dry, but is actually very entertaining when you read it. The backbone of every movie is the script, and Peter Gould broke down the book in a way that made it an entertaining movie.
HBO: Did you enjoy matching up recognizable actors with the faces of Wall Street?
CURTIS HANSON: Sure. Our goal was not to impersonate the people and just cast lookalikes. We wanted to cast people that were in the ballpark in terms of looks, but could also capture the essence of that person. As each member joined the cast, I sent them DVDs of the real people, so they could familiarize themselves with how they walked, talked, looked, and so forth. Some of them do look remarkably similar.
HBO: Was it difficult to capture characters whose real life counterparts have become so familiar to the public?
CURTIS HANSON: I didn’t worry about that too much. The average person on the street doesn't know what Jamie Dimon or John Mack looks like.
HBO: Why focus on this specific period of the crisis?
CURTIS HANSON: It was the period that was the most intense and dramatic. It has something of a beginning and an end. From the fall of Lehman to the passage of TARP. Obviously we had to edit some things out for time, so we picked the most dramatic moments.
HBO: Do you feel the story is being told from a certain vantage point, or were you trying to remain as neutral as possible?
CURTIS HANSON: We tried to remain neutral, but there is obviously a vantage point, since we're looking at these people who brought the crisis on. Most all of my movies concern a character who's trying to become a better version of himself. I thought that's what Henry Paulson was doing. He was partly to blame for creating the circumstances that brought the crisis on, but he does his best to find a way out of it. Even if that way, government intervention, went against everything he had believed in his business life.
HBO: Is Hank Paulson the hero of this story?
CURTIS HANSON: I wouldn't say the story has a hero. I'd say it has several characters trying to do the best they can under difficult circumstances. We chose to use Paulson as a center that the audience could hang its hat on. Bernanke and Geithner were also struggling to find solutions.
HBO: Some people are outraged that no one has had to pay for bringing the crisis about. Do you believe there is someone or something to blame or is it more of a systemic issue?
CURTIS HANSON: I think it's systemic. I didn't see one villain in the piece. Dick Fuld is the architect of his own demise, but he's not really a villain. He's even sympathetic, in a way, as his company crumbles around him. It's a fascinating group of individuals who are all very good at what they do. But unintentionally, I believe, led their companies and the countries down a path toward a cliff.
HBO: How did making this film compare to making your other ones?
CURTIS HANSON: I always enjoy going into a new world with my pictures. Something that's fresh for me that I haven't been in before and can learn about. I try to share what I learn about that world with the audience in the course of telling the story. The world of Detroit in 8 Mile, 1953 Los Angeles in L.A. Confidential or poker in Lucky You. For Too Big to Fail, it was very stimulating to learn all about this stuff and to be in New York where it all took place.