Money Talks at the Margin Call Premiere



Director J.C. Chandor couldn’t be releasing his debut film, Margin Call, at a more auspicious time. The thriller, which traces the actions of a single financial firm in 2008 during the first 24 hours of the financial crisis, debuted last night at a Peggy Siegal Company premiere co-hosted by The Wall Street Journal and Forevermark. Conveniently, the premiere occurred on the exact one-month anniversary of the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Like the protests, Margin Call places an intense focus on the corporate greed that precipitated the Great Recession; but unlike the protests, it also lends a human dimension to the heretofore faceless Wall Street bureaucracy, with a terrific ensemble cast—Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci, and Penn Badgley—whose characters have to make very real, difficult decisions when they realize what’s coming.

Much of the cast gathered for the screening; Moore looked lovely, if a bit thin, and is still wearing her wedding ring, while Badgley’s moppish hair, grown out for his Jeff Buckley biopic, looked a little out of place among so many trim suits. The night’s most memorable moment may have been at the after-party at the Top of the Standard, when Bettany and Spacey slow-danced hand-in-hand to the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.”

“I didn’t know very much, to be honest,” Quinto—who’s been having quite the week, of course, since coming out in the pages of New York—said of his knowledge of the crisis prior to starting the film. “I’m not particularly financially minded. I went down to the Financial District and spent some time with some risk analysts, doing their workday, on their desks, and had lunch with them and talked to them, and certainly read a bunch of articles, and talked to J.C. a lot, because he has a really unique and pretty clear understanding of this world. The process was a combination of those things.”

And does Quinto feel like he could explain the crisis now? “Nooo,” he said firmly, but with a smile.

For his part, Chandor insisted that though the film’s poster says it’s “inspired by a true story,” the company he created wasn’t based on any one financial firm in particular. “It was a total composite. I tried to have the film be as sort of universal as possible. Essentially, it was a mash-up of a lot of different worlds. And a result, hopefully, some kind of universal truth will come out of that,” he said.

“The one thing it wasn’t was Lehman Brothers. In my mind, this firm is still in business today—because of the actions in the movie, they survived,” he continued. “Which is a pretty big difference.”