McKay

When I saw the film this woman sat down next to me and just said, “I had to smoke a little bit before this because I lost so much money.” 

Wow.

Then at the end I asked what she thought, and she loved it and found it very entertaining, despite how painful she found that experience. 

That’s a great story. I had a relative come to the premiere, who lost their home. They loved it. I think they like they kind of get to know what the fuck happened. You go through this pain and suffering and you kind of have a vague sense of what happened, but… And it certainly ends by giving the full jab. So you don’t feel like any punches were pulled by the end.

When you were asking me about [taking out jokes for the drama] I realized we did do that a couple of times. The end, the where are they nows, there just kept being this discussion about the tone of the ending because obviously it’s so somber. I’m like, “I can write jokes for weeks and weeks. I mean, that’s not a hard thing to do.” I actually did put a version for Pitt’s [paranoid] character where it was something to the effect that he gave his family gas masks for Christmas, and it got a big laugh. We were like, “Ah, it’s too jokey.” We took it out.

Then, there was another one, too, where it says what an ISDA is. Trying to be time trader with an ISDA is like, and I had originally written, “trying to be a porn star without a dick.” That’s going to get laugh, but no. No, no, it’s not right. So went with more “trying to win the Indy 500 with llama,” which is just silly but not as crass jokey. There was a line for us.

I could go through the whole movie and just add big jokes whenever I wanted to. We were kind of sensitive to that, and trying to find moments. I’ve never consciously written a moment that I know isn’t a laugh, but it’s a smile. I actually hate that when that’s in movies, but in this movie a couple of times I did that.

Sometimes it was pulling back laughs. Sometimes it was just timing and shading. Editor Hank Corwin has this great move that I’ve never seen. I’ve seen it in movies, but I’ve never seen an editor do it in front of me, where he cuts off dialogue for the added punch. Fucking love it. So we were using stuff like that to create raggedness where sometimes the movie would get a little smooth. I’d be like, “I don’t like that it’s running this smooth. Maybe just kind of fuck with stuff just to make sure it’s always a little off because these guys are off, and it’s an off perspective.” I don’t think I’ve done such fine tuning with that kind of stuff before, which was really fun.

For The Big Short, you cut Michael Burry’s (Christian Bale) wife and kid out of the film in post-production, and said the movie really worked when you did that. Has that ever happened on past films?

The biggest one was on Anchorman. When we wrote the script it was off the success of Austin Powers. All of the comedies were sort of imitating Austin Powers. Like, you have to a jeopardy plot. You have to have a supervillain. You have to have like a villain in the movie. We were like, “Why? It’s about this inner sexism in the workplace.” “You have to. You have to.” So we were like, “All right. Fuck it.” So we wrote this whole SLA, sort of Patty Hearst storyline.

We had great actors. We had Maya Rudolph. We had Amy Poehler. We had Chuck D. It was really awesome, actually. We did it as well as you can do it. It just didn’t work, and we took it out and the movie just went, “Boom!” It became a completely different movie once it was out. That’s the most dramatic one, really. It took a movie that was kind of working and turned it into a movie that was killing.

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The Big Short opens in limited release on December 11th.

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