Brad Pitt The Big Short premiere
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

With a career spanning almost three decades, Brad Pitt is as passionate as ever about acting. He still finds performing a challenge and is always on the hunt for meaningful roles to plays — especially now that he’s older.

“I love acting. There’s still a fondness,” Pitt, 51, told Variety at the New York premiere of “The Big ShortMonday night at the Ziegfeld Theater. “Some stories and some characters are really special to me. The one we just finished is special because it has relevance and it asks, ‘What it’s going to mean in our time right now?’ Those are the stories that get me excited. I don’t know how many more I’ve got left in me so each one has to be meaningful.”

In Paramount’s “The Big Short,” the film chronicles a group of real life bankers (Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale) who foresee the American housing market crash that led to the 2008 financial crisis. The true story is based on the best selling 2010 book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis.

“Too many people lost their homes, their savings and families were put on the streets, yet no one was held accountable,” said Pitt. “This is amazing to me. I was shocked. It was until I read Michael Lewis’ book that I really was able to get to the bottom of the rabbit hole to understand what went so wrong. This story needs to be told because the experts will tell you that nothing has really changed and it could happen again.”

Pitt and his Plan B producing partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner immediately signed on to finance the picture with filmmaker Adam McKay (“Anchorman”) directing and writing the screenplay with Charles Randolph. With McKay’s comic dialogue and lively approach to explaining the complicated economic concepts (surprise stars make cameos to help define the vocabulary), Pitt hopes moviegoers will be inspired to learn more about the major American financial institutions.

“I just want people to understand. The language of the stock market and banks are set up to obscure and to confuse and applicants don’t know what they’re getting into. This drives me crazy,” said Pitt. “But, to know and to ask questions and not to trust what’s going on with the financial institutions is very important. Things need to be regulated and it can’t go on like this.”

With terms such as collateralized debt obligation, subprime loans, mortgage-backed securities and interest rate swaps, the dense Wall Street jargon even had Carell confused. The “Office” alum says the most challenging aspect of the role was memorizing the dialogue and delivering it in a snappy way like it was second nature.

“It’s really like a foreign language,” Carell told Variety. “I didn’t know anything about the banking or finance world. I didn’t grow up in that world and it’s not what my family did for a living. At first the terminology and the concept were so complicated and dry to me, but the way Adam McKay presents it is so funny and entertaining. He breaks down the complicated theories and makes it understandable and accessible. I hope people will learn more about it so it creates a discussion. Honestly, I didn’t know how dire the situation was. To learn about that world and to explore that world was a real eye opening experience.”

As for reuniting with Gosling — his costar in 2011’s “Crazy, Stupid, Love” — Carell says he “had the best time” and was excited to see Gosling back in a role that showcases his comedic chops.

“He’s so funny because he’s such a natural at it. He doesn’t try too hard,” said Carell. “There’s a term called sweaty comedy and that’s when people are desperately trying to make you laugh and Ryan never does that. He lets the comedy naturally come to him and if it’s not there, he doesn’t try. He’s so dry with his stuff and so inventive and smart and it always comes from an honest place.”

Following the screening, Pitt, Gosling and Carell gathered at the New York Public Library for the film’s after-party along with McKay and their costars Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro and Byron Mann. Guests were allowed to roam freely in the corridors of the Beaux-Arts landmark building, but most stuck close to Pitt while he chatted with Gosling and Gardner in a corner area of the library. Three security guards formed a circle around Pitt, Gosling and Carell with only a select group of fans selected to take a selfie with the stars.

“The Big Short” opens December 23.

Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Paramount’s Brad Grey and Brad Pitt at the New York premiere of “The Big Short”
Andrew H. Walker/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

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