The Big Short (film)

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The Big Short
The Big Short teaser poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Adam McKay
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on The Big Short
by Michael Lewis
Music by Nicholas Britell
Cinematography Barry Ackroyd
Edited by Hank Corwin
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • November 12, 2015 (2015-11-12) (AFI Fest)
  • December 11, 2015 (2015-12-11) (United States)
Running time
130 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[2]
Box office $133.4 million[3]

The Big Short is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Charles Randolph, based on the 2010 book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis about the financial crisis of 2007–2008 which was triggered by the United States housing bubble.[4] The film stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, and Marisa Tomei.

The film is noted for the unconventional techniques it employs to explain complex financial instruments, among others, it features cameo appearances by Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez and Richard Thaler, who break the fourth wall to explain concepts such as subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations as a meta-reference.[5] Several other actors directly address the audience, most frequently Gosling, who serves as the narrator.

The film began a limited release in the United States on December 11, 2015, followed by a wide release on December 23 by Paramount Pictures[6][7] The film was a financial and critical success, grossing $133 million against a $50 million budget, and receiving positive reviews, the film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Bale, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the last.


The film consists of three separate but concurrent stories, loosely connected by their actions in the years leading up to the 2007 housing market crash.

Scion Capital storyline

In 2005, eccentric hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) discovers that the United States housing market is extremely unstable, being based on high-risk subprime loans. Anticipating that the market will collapse during Q2 2007, as interest rates would rise from adjustable-rate mortgages, he envisions an opportunity to profit, his plan is to create a credit default swap market, allowing him to bet against market-based mortgage-backed securities. He proposes his idea to several major investment and commercial banks who readily accept. Burry's huge long-term bet, exceeding $1 billion, entails paying substantial monthly premiums to the banks, this requirement sparks his clients' vocal unhappiness, believing he is "wasting" capital, and many demand that he reverse and sell, but Burry refuses. He later discovers that the banks collude with a major bond-rating company to maintain ratings on worthless bonds, allowing them to sell off their losing positions before the true values became known. Under pressure, Burry restricts withdrawals from his fund, angering his investors. Eventually the housing market collapses and his fund's value increases by 489% with an overall profit of over $2.69 billion.

Front Point Partners storyline

Deutsche Bank salesman Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) is one of the first to understand Burry's analysis, learning about his actions from one of the bankers who sold Burry an early credit default swap. Vennett uses his quant to verify that Burry's predictions are likely true and decides to put his own stake in the market, earning a fee on selling the swaps to firms who'll be profitable when the underlying mortgage bonds fail. A misplaced phone call alerts Front Point hedge fund manager Mark Baum ("Mark Baum" was used as a pseudonym for Steve Eisman in the film The Big Short.) (Steve Carell) to his plans, and he is convinced to buy credit default swaps from Vennett due to his own personal distaste with the banks. Vennett explains that the market collapse is being further perpetuated by the packaging of subprime loans into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) large enough to be considered AAA ratings. Baum sends staff to investigate the Miami housing market and they discover that mortgage brokers are making money by selling risky mortgages to the Wall Street banks, which created the bubble. In early 2007, these loans begin to default, but the prices of the CDOs somehow rise. Meanwhile, ratings agencies refuse to downgrade the ratings of these failing bonds. When Baum questions an acquaintance at Standard & Poor's, he discovers conflicts of interest and dishonesty amongst the credit rating agencies. When Baum's employees question Vennett's motives, he maintains his position and invites Baum and his team to the American Securitization Forum in Las Vegas. Baum interviews CDO manager Wing Chau, who creates CDOs on behalf of an investment bank, claiming to represent the interests of investors. Chau describes how synthetic CDOs make a chain of increasingly large bets on the faulty loans, involving up to 20 times as much money as the loans themselves. Baum horrifyingly realizes that the fraud will completely collapse the global economy and decides to purchase as many swaps as possible, profiting from the situation at the banks' expense. Waiting until the last minute to sell their position, Baum's fund makes a profit of $1 billion, but he laments that the banks won't accept blame for the crisis.

Brownfield Fund storyline

Young investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) accidentally discover a prospectus by Vennett, convincing them to become involved in the swaps, as it fits their strategy of buying cheap insurance with big potential payouts. Since they are below the capital threshold for an ISDA Master Agreement required to enter into trades like Burry's and Baum's, they enlist the aid of retired securities trader Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). When the bond values and CDOs rise despite defaults, Geller suspects the banks of committing fraud, the three also visit the American Securitization Forum, where they learn that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has no regulations to monitor mortgage-backed security activity. They manage to successfully make an even more profitable payout deal than other hedge funds by shorting the higher-rated mortgage securities, these securities were considered highly stable and the banks were willing to sell swaps on them extremely cheaply. Geller and Shipley are initially ecstatic, but Rickert is disgusted, pointing out an impending economic collapse and the human effect that's going to come from it, in particular, the fact that when unemployment goes up 1%, 40,000 more people will die. Furthermore, they realize that the banks have colluded with the ratings agency to maintain the value of their CDO's in order to sell their worthless positions and then short them before the inevitable crash. Horrified, they try to tip off the press and their families about the upcoming disaster and the rampant fraud but nobody believes them, as the housing market begins to collapse, Ben, while on vacation in England, is able to sell their swaps, and points out that Europe is starting to feel the effects of the collapse. Ultimately, they make a profit of $80 million, but their faith in the system is broken.


Jared Vennett makes $47 million off the selling of swaps. Mark Baum becomes more gracious from the financial fallout, and his staff continue to operate their fund. Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley go their separate ways after failing to sue the ratings agencies, with Charlie moving to Charlotte to start a family, and Jamie still running the fund. Ben Rickert returns to his peaceful retirement. Michael Burry closes his fund after public backlash and multiple IRS audits, now only investing in water commodities, it is noted that as of 2015, banks are selling CDOs again under a new label: a "bespoke tranche opportunity".


  • Christian Bale as Michael Burry, M.D.,[8] the operator of Scion Capital and the first person to discover the massive bubble in the American housing market. He invests over $1.3 billion in credit default swaps based on this assumption. Burry is quirky and socially inept, and much prefers working with numbers than people.
  • Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett (based on Greg Lippmann),[8] a low-level salesman at Deutsche Bank who stumbles upon Burry's interpretation of the housing market, and persuades Baum to buy credit default swaps from his bank, collecting commissions and fees by doing so. Vennett is egotistical, highly vain and serves as the narrator of the film.
  • Steve Carell as Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman),[8] the hot-headed head of Front Point Partners, a hedge fund which also invests millions of dollars into credit default swaps based on the advice of Jared Vennett. Baum is disgusted by the actions of his Wall Street compatriots, and is struggling to cope with his brother's suicide.
  • Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert (based on Ben Hockett),[8] a paranoid and germaphobic retired former trader who, like Baum, despises the financial world but goes back in as a favor to Jamie and Charlie.
  • Hamish Linklater as Porter Collins, an employee of Baum's and the most objectively normal.
  • Rafe Spall as Danny Moses, an employee of Baum's and a rampant optimist.
  • Jeremy Strong as Vincent "Vinny" Daniel, an employee of Baum's and the most rash and impulsive.
  • John Magaro as Charlie Geller (based on Charlie Ledley),[9] co-owner of the Brownfield Fund who asks Ben to help them get a seat at the 'big-boy' table.
  • Finn Wittrock as Jamie Shipley (based on Jamie Mai),[9] co-owner of the Brownfield Fund who asks Ben to help them get a seat at the 'big-boy' table.
  • Marisa Tomei as Cynthia Baum (based on Valerie Feigen),[9] Mark's loving and understanding wife.
  • Tracy Letts as Lawrence Fields (based on Joel Greenblatt),an investor of Scion Capital and Burry's mentor.
  • Adepero Oduye as Kathy Tao, a Morgan Stanley employee who supervises Front Point and Baum.
  • Byron Mann as Wing Chau, a CDO manager that Vennett introduces to Mark Baum.
  • Karen Gillan as Evie,[10] the ex-girlfriend of Jamie's brother who leaves the SEC to find a job at an investment bank.
  • Melissa Leo as Georgia Hale, an employee of credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's, who admits the industry is corrupted.
  • Max Greenfield as Mortgage Broker #1,[11] a morally bankrupt mortgage broker who specialises in conning strippers into bad loans.
  • Billy Magnussen as Mortgage Broker #2,[12] a morally bankrupt mortgage broker who specialises in conning immigrants into bad loans.
  • Rudy Eisenzopf as Lewis Ranieri, a no-name banker who created the first mortgage-backed security.
  • Margot Robbie as herself, explaining Mortgage-backed securities and Subprime loans[5]
  • Anthony Bourdain as himself, explaining Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs)[5]
  • Richard Thaler as himself, explaining Synthetic CDOs[5][13]
  • Selena Gomez as herself, also explaining Synthetic CDOs alongside Thaler[5]



In 2013, Paramount acquired the rights to the 2010 non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, to develop it into a film, which Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment would produce.[14] On March 24, 2014, Adam McKay was hired to write and direct a film about the housing and economic bubble.[4] Screenwriter Charles Randolph, who co-wrote the film with McKay, said one of the first challenges was finding the right tone for the film, he told Creative Screenwriting, "In general it was trying to find the right tone that was slightly funnier than your average Miloš Forman comedy, which is all grounded character-based but not so satirical where you got Wag the Dog. Somewhere between there was what I was shooting for. Once I got the tone down, then I went through the plot, the market's movements provided you with an underlying plot. You make your short deal, then the bank is trying to squeeze you out, and then it all breaks loose. So that was pretty easy, and it provided character arcs against that."[15] Two years after Randolph wrote his draft, McKay, as director, rewrote Randolph's screenplay, it was McKay's idea to include the celebrity cameos in the film to explain the financial concepts.[15]


On January 13, 2015, Variety reported that Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling were set to star in the film, with Pitt producing the film along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. Plan B Entertainment would finance, with Paramount handling the distribution rights.[16] Before this, Pitt had already starred in the adaptation of the author's Moneyball, for which he was nominated for an Oscar,[4][16] on January 14, it was announced that Steve Carell would also star.[8] On April 21, 2015, more cast was revealed by Deadline, including Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, Tracy Letts, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Byron Mann, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, and Finn Wittrock.[17] Charles Randolph wrote the initial draft.[17] Max Greenfield joined the ensemble cast of the film on April 23, 2015.[11] Karen Gillan tweeted about her involvement in the film on May 8, 2015.[10]


Principal photography on the film began on March 18, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.[18][19] On March 25, filming was taking place on General De Gaulle Boulevard in the Algiers section of New Orleans,[20] on May 8, Gillan confirmed she was shooting her scenes.[10] On May 20, 2015, filming took place on Mercer, between Prince Street and Spring Street in Manhattan, New York City.[21] On May 22, the production crew recreated the offices of failed investment firm Lehman Brothers in the lobby of the New York State Department of Financial Services in Manhattan.[22] An assistant counsel for the Department of Financial Services played one of the extras in the scene.[22]


On September 22, 2015, Paramount set the film for a limited release on December 11, 2015 and a wide release on December 23, 2015.[23][24]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 15, 2016.


Box office[edit]

The Big Short grossed $70.3 million in the United States and Canada and $63.2 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $133.4 million, against a production budget of $50 million.[3]

The film was released in eight theaters in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Chicago on December 11, 2015 and earned $705,527 (an average of $88,191 per theater). It set the record for the best ever per-screen gross for a film opening in eight locations, breaking the previous record held by Memoirs of a Geisha ($85,313 per theater),[25] and was the third biggest theater average of 2015 behind the four screen debuts of Steve Jobs ($130,000) and The Revenant ($118,640).[26]

The film had its wide release on Wednesday December 23, 2015 and grossed $2.3 million on its first day. In its opening weekend it grossed $10.5 million, finishing 6th at the box office.[27]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 281 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Big Short approaches a serious, complicated subject with an impressive attention to detail – and manages to deliver a well-acted, scathingly funny indictment of its real-life villains in the bargain."[28] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[29] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[27]

IGN gave the film a score of 8.6/10, praising its "energetic direction" and making "a complicated tale palpable for the layperson even as it triggers outrage at the fatcats who helped cause it".[30] The New York Times's "UpShot" series stated The Big Short offered the "strongest film explanation of the global financial crisis".[31]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE BIG SHORT (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 9, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  2. ^ FilmL.A. (June 15, 2016). "2015 Feature Film Study". Retrieved June 29, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "The Big Short (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c "Paramount Taps ‘Anchorman’ Helmer Adam McKay To Adapt And Direct Michael Lewis’ ‘The Big Short’ About Economic Meltdown". March 24, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Finely, Dash (December 16, 2015). "The Big Secrets Of The Big Short: How Unexpected Cameos Impact The Year's Must-See Film". Retrieved December 27, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Paramount pushes 'The Big Short' into awards season". Associated Press. September 25, 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Big Short | Trailer & Movie Site | December 2015". The Big Short. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Kit, Borys (January 14, 2015). "Steve Carell in Talks to Join Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling in 'The Big Short'". Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c "The True Story Behind The Big Short". History vs Hollywood. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c "Karen Gillan on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Max Greenfield Joins Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling in ‘The Big Short’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. April 23, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015. 
  12. ^ Staff, THR (2 December 2015). "'The Big Short' Director Adam McKay on Billy Magnussen Shrinking Steve Carell's Wardrobe". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  13. ^ "The Big Short Somehow Makes Subprime Mortgages Entertaining". December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  14. ^ McNary, Dave (March 24, 2014). "‘Anchorman's’ Adam McKay Boards Financial Drama". Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Hogan, Brianne (January 20, 2016). "Banking on The Big Short". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved January 21, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Justin Kroll (January 13, 2015). "Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling to Star in Financial Drama ‘The Big Short’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 14, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (April 21, 2015). "‘The Big Short’ Solidifies With Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt". Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, & Christian Bale are headed to Orleans for ‘The Big Short’". February 10, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ "‘The Big Short’, starring Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, & Christian Bale, begins filming in New Orleans". March 23, 2015. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  20. ^ "‘The Big Short’, starring Brad Pitt Ryan Gosling & Christian Bale, filming in Algiers, LA today". March 25, 2015. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  21. ^ "'The Big Short', starring Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, is filming in NYC this week!". May 16, 2015. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Matthews, Christopher M. (22 May 2015). "'Big Short' Recreates Lehman Bros. Offices in Regulator's Building". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  23. ^ "Paramount pushes 'The Big Short' into awards season". CNS News. 
  24. ^ "The Big Short Website". Paramount Pictures. 
  25. ^ Pamela McClintock (December 13, 2015). "Box Office: Ron Howard's 'Heart of the Sea' Capsizes With $11M U.S. Debut". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 13, 2015. 
  26. ^ Scott Mendelson (December 13, 2015). "Box Office: 'In The Heart Of The Sea' Is A Whale Of A Fail, 'Big Short' Strikes It Rich". Forbes. Retrieved December 13, 2015. 
  27. ^ a b "‘Daddy’, ‘Joy’ & ‘Hateful Eight’ Reap Fortune As ‘Star Wars’ Halo Effect Impacts B.O…Can ‘Force Awakens’ Hit $1 Billion In U.S.?". 
  28. ^ "The Big Short reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 20, 2016. 
  29. ^ "The Big Short reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 19, 2016. 
  30. ^ "The Big Short Review – IGN". IGN. Retrieved 2015-12-26. 
  31. ^ Irwin, Neil (December 23, 2015). "What ‘The Big Short’ Gets Right, and Wrong, About the Housing Bubble". New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2015. 

External links[edit]