It’s hard to land an exclusive interview with big name stars. After all, when you’re very famous, every reporter wants to talk to you. So when I was told that I would get some time with Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Penn Badgley, Zachary Quinto and Paul Bettany at Sundance to talk about their excellent movie Margin Call (which premiered last night at Sundance), I made sure my schedule would be clear. Thankfully, while I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down with this very famous group, everyone couldn’t have been friendlier or more excited to talk about the film. And after watching it for myself last night, I understand why. Margin Call, which is written and directed by JC Chandor, is a top notch economic thriller that revolves around the key people at an investment bank during the 24-hour period before the recent financial crisis. As the film unfolds, we learn who knew what and when, and what lines are you willing to cross to stay ahead. While it often takes Hollywood years to tell a story about something that just happened, Margin Call has already done it and the results are fantastic.
During the interview, the cast talked about what drew them to the project, how did they prepare for the technical jargon, what does it mean for each of them to be at Sundance, and a lot more. As usual, you can either read or listen to the interview after the jump.
If you’d like to listen to the interview, click here. If you listen to it, you can hear them offering me pizza and beer as some of them were eating during the interview. I have to say, sitting down with these five was a bit intimating, but they really were great to talk to. I wish I had a bit more time.
Margin Call was already bought so you can expect the film to be playing near you later this year. You should definitely check it out.
Collider: Can you talk about what drew you to the project?
Penn Badgley: For me, just the fact that everybody else was doing it. I was like, “Who the fuck would I be to not?” I mean it was such an incredible and unique experience for me. It was a fantastic project and J.C. was thrilled to be getting everybody whereas I was like, “Jesus Christ all of these people are involved? Sign me up please.” For me, it was a bit of a reverse situation where I was watching and learning the entire time. This is by far and away the first thing I’ve done that is anywhere near this level of creative integrity and something that I want to do, but I know it’s very different for everybody else.
Demi Moore: Tell us your story Simon.
Simon Baker: I was a lonely child and I was promised a love scene with Demi Moore so I showed up. No, I read the script and I don’t really know much about the financial world. I thought it was interesting and it brought it into sort of laymen’s terms It felt like a normal workplace and the politics of a workplace. For a lot of people that had that period of time, those decisions that were made had an enormous impact on so many Americans. It seemed so simple. As far as the script goes, it’s people in a room discussing, “Do we do this or do we do that?”, and the outcome we all heard about. Just shockwaves through every town in America, but it really boiled down to these people having these kind of petty arguments in the room about “Do we do this or do we do that? Do we look after the company or do we fallout and is that what it is going to be about?” It could have been any workplace, but it happened to be something that had enormous repercussions on the American public.
Demi Moore: Which is very interesting. I think we’ve all felt the effects, but we don’t necessarily know what were the elements that lead up to the moment. What this does is take you inside to the human aspect and to the individual participants, which was really fascinating to me.
Penn Badgley: You know what else is a really nice thing and a quality of a script that is rare regardless of the genre? It does not speak down to the audience. It does not over explain anything. Save for maybe the end when we are really hammering the point home, but I’m not in those parts.[everybody laughs]. I thought that was incredible. It speaks of J.C.’s talent as a writer-director, which I think shocked a lot of us because he was a first time writer-director. He clearly understood the financial world so well. He understood it so well that I was expecting him to be less of a creative time and more of a banker almost. He was able to wrangle that set incredibly and all of the actors involved. I have to say that the seed for all of that was the script and it’s kind of incredible the cast that was attracted to it. Again, for me, it was an immense learning experience in so many ways.
Collider: When you are dealing with material such as this, there is often some preparation process. There is a lot of technical jargon in this film and a lot of information. Can you talk about how knowledgeable you were going into this project with this information? How much did you research and what did you walk away with it?
Zachary Quinto: I felt really grateful. Obviously, I had the advantage of being the first one of any of the cast to have read the script as a producer of it. Working with J.C., and talking to him about this world, I felt like I learned more than I would have if I was just attached as an actor. But really once we got the opportunity to sit down with some people in this world and took some trips down to CitiBank and spent some time there. It was a really truncating process. We shot this movie in 17 days. We all had varying degrees of prep time. Demi came in and had 3 days before 2 days before she started shooting. Jeremy Irons came and we had such a debacle with his visa and whether or not he would be able to get here or not. We didn’t really know before the day he started shooting that he was actually going to be able to come. I just feel like this whole group of actors did their own amount of preparation in their own impressive way.
Demi Moore: You were involved and developed. I don’t know at what point you came in Paul or Kevin. By the time I was coming into it, there was an incredible energy that was very unique to this film. We were shooting and existing all in one space. Almost more like what you would get in a theater experience. Like this whole setting right here with the food and everything – these were our rooms. If we were thinking about something in a scene or had a question, we could literally walk right over and pop into the person’s dressing room. If somebody was shooting we could…we were all right there with each other everyday when we were shooting. It allowed for an intimacy and a true ensemble that does not always happen and is not always the case.
Zachary Quinto: And it helped create a specific dynamic. We all also had different perspectives based on the characters we were playing and where they fit into the larger spectrum of this corporate hierarchy. So we were able to draw from the experiences of each other as actors and the time that Pen, Paul, or any of us spent with the people, or talking with J.C., or meeting J.C.’s dad, who was on set with us for a couple of days. It was really great in that way too.
Paul Bettany: I also think the speed at which we all became friends…
Penn Badgley: It was pretty quick. I mean, the fact we only spent 17 days shooting.
Paul Bettany: I was saying this earlier so forgive me for repeating myself, but I already look back on the experience already with more regularity than I have with many other jobs. I think forget about somebody being a prima donna and being in their trailer. Just the geography of a trailer being away from the studio and you have to talk to someone to get the PA to speak to the thing, and they come, and they knock on the door…
Penn Badgley: There were times when we were all gathered around a television watching World Cup matches while we were shaving and getting ready for the day at 5 p.m.
Paul Bettany: I do think that in 17 days…the stuff with me and Penn. They set up a shot of coming in to find you, and there is no dialogue. But they set up a shot that is 30 seconds long and you’ve got to fill it with something. You start making shit up, and you just can’t do that unless if you feel comfortable. I really think that it’s somehow in the structuring of having everybody in one space and in one place hanging out together and working together that you accelerate that knowledge of each other.
Collider: What does it mean for each of you to be at Sundance?
Penn Badgley: This is my first time. So far, it has been a wonderful opportunity and it has been a kind of dream first experience. I feel like I’m a bit naive because I wasn’t really aware of all of the politics of selling a movie and all that kind of shit. I walk in here like, “Of course we are going to be sold the first day. That’s fine. That is fantastic.” It’s been really amazing for me.
Demi Moore: There isn’t really one of us here that cannot sit here and go, “Wow. By the time I arrived a movie that hasn’t even been screened yet has sold?” I mean, what better way to kick this off? L too, like Penn, this is the first time I’ve ever had a film at Sundance. I have another one here and I feel like, “Wow. I’m not mad at this at all.”
Zachary Quinto: It’s a real celebration and I feel, personally, so honored to be surrounded by people that I respect as much as all these people here. That we made something that we all believed in on the same level and committed to to the same degree is incredibly exciting.
Demi Moore: But I would have to add to that, for J.C. and knowing the journey he has been on. To get the script written to being here right here right now. It’s really remarkable.
Penn Badgley: He was also having a child while we first started shooting. He was just stretched so thin. I feel like I’ve seen him grow younger every time I’ve seen him since.
Demi Moore: Did you say grow younger? [laughs]