BBWM Headline: Star-studded cast recreates financial crisis in HBO’s ‘Too Big to Fail’

PASADENA, Calif. – You might not think that the financial crisis three years ago would be fodder for stimulating drama. But some TV brokers are speculating that you’re wrong.

Online PR News – 09-June-2011 – – By LUAINE LEEMcClatchy-Tribune News Service
PASADENA, Calif. – You might not think that the financial crisis three years ago would be fodder for stimulating drama. But some TV brokers are speculating that you’re wrong.
On May 23 HBO is offering “Too Big to Fail,” the tale of what was happening behind the scenes as banks folded, industry staggered and the housing market crumbled.
Based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, the film is directed by Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”) with a roster of heavy hitting stars like James Wood, William Hurt, Topher Grace, Tony Shalhoub and Matthew Modine.
“I think that this story and this particular film and the book was really an opportunity to try to take the public inside the room so they could see what happened, so they could actually see the decisions that were made and what the opportunities were and the choices were that they actually had,” says Sorkin.
“In hindsight, everything looks black-and-white. But with 20/20 hindsight, it’s different. When you’re actually there, the choices were very different. And I think that this particular project really puts a focus on that. You get to see really what we were up against and how this was perhaps the most catastrophic thing that had happened in our economy since the Great Depression and that we were really on the edge. People don’t really appreciate often how close to the edge we really were,” he says.
Hurt portrays Henry Paulson, secretary of the Treasury and former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs. “I got to play a guy who crosses the line from the private sector to the public sector,” he says.
“And they’re different jobs. You do different things in different contexts. So that was one of the most interesting parts for me, is Paulson who is a street fighter … a guy who is not used to hearing ‘no’ in the street, to a guy who is working now for the American people. And what do you do in relationship to that responsibility?”
Hurt spent considerable time with Paulson. “He was very generous with his time, for a lot of reasons. So that was utterly fascinating for me. And he was open, I think. So that was a thrill. And to be able to ask some very pointed questions and get some very direct answers about those questions was, this is a sideline, but it was thrilling, just wonderful for me.”
Usually Hurt avoids portraying real people. “But what made this project so fascinating and imperative to me was that the events affect the life of everybody on the planet and will continue to. So that raised the level of interest and the applicability of the subject to an acceptable artistic level.”
Peter Gould, who wrote the screenplay, says he wasn’t worried about building tension.
“Making it dramatic really wasn’t that much of a challenge because the events were extraordinary … So, in terms of a point of view, I think that what we’re really trying to do is to tease out what it looked like from the inside … really what did it look like inside the submarine while they were working on this crisis? The other part is it’s – ultimately it is a disaster movie, and so you have people who are coping with this disaster under a lot of stress. And that’s when you see what they’re really made out of.”
Director Hanson reports actors were eager to play the smartest guys in the room. “We had the good fortune to put together an extraordinary group of actors, starting off with William Hurt. And once word gets out, people want to be part of something they think is going to be good. And actors like Ed Asner and Bill Pullman, Paul Giamatti (are in the cast).
The idea, says Hanson, was to depict the core of the character. “We didn’t want to do impersonations. We wanted the actors, in their performance, to try and capture the essence of the person they were playing and tap into it with the essence of themselves. But we did what we could to help them resemble the person. So, for example, Paul (Giamatti) has a white beard on, and his head is shaved like Ben Bernanke’s. Matthew Modine is wearing a hairpiece to look more like John Thain. So we did things like that. And William ended up with the haircut he’s got.”
Sorkin says he’s pleased with the return from his 12-month investment in the book. “As a writer who was toiling away for a year, sleeping five or six hours, trying to write this book almost in real time as the crisis was unfolding, you don’t know if anyone is ever going to read the book, let alone get the opportunity to have a director or an actor of this stature playing these characters and bringing this story to life.
“So for me, I’m over the moon. I’m thrilled about it. I think Peter did a tremendous job in really creating a script that’s dramatic, but hews in truth to the book and to the story of what actually happened. And I think it’s a credit to all of them.”

Cable network USA, which boasts a great track record for its original programs including “Burn Notice,” “White Collar” and “Covert Affairs,” has slated some interesting future projects including one about a middle-aged mom detective, an ambulance-chasing lawyer partnered with an idealistic paralegal, and a comedy starring Nathan Lane about an actor who suffers from his resemblance to Nathan Lane. Also on the docket is the tale of a boy band which reunites (with Kara DioGuardi, former judge on “American Idol,” as consulting producer), a limited series by two writers from “Mad Men,” Andre and Maria Jacquemetton, and a drama about a doctor who battles bureaucracy.
If you haven’t heard enough about it by May 15, the Discovery Channel will present “Killing bin Laden” (working title) a one-hour special offering a second-by-second account of the operation – from the time the crucial intelligence was gathered last year, through the burial of the terrorist at sea. Accessing local reporters, fixers and cameras on the ground in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the film will delve into the details of how the operation was planned and executed, seeking to answer key questions that are so far unresolved: How many special ops forces were involved? From where did they deploy? How was facial recognition used to identify bin Laden? Why was one of the helicopters abandoned and destroyed? Etc.
The last time I saw Paris she said she was going to have her very own reality show come June 1 on Oxygen. Hilton thinks it’s about time everybody got to know the real girl and not the “hot” blonde heiress everybody thinks she is. “This show is not like anything I have ever done. On ‘The Simple Life’ I was playing a character, and I was a fish out of water living in places, so it wasn’t my world. Now people will get to see my real world, my friends, my relationships, and my business, and everything that goes on, and it’s not a competition show. It’s nothing like that. It’s just a really behind-the-scenes look at my life, and people will get to see how I really am.”