×

Adam McKay on His Favorite Response to ‘The Big Short’

Adam McKay, the writer-director of such classics as “Anchorman” and “Step Brothers” and co-founder of Funny or Die finds himself a dual Oscar nominee for co-writing and directing “The Big Short.” That film, about the housing collapse, combines high comedy with real-life tragedy that has made it one of the most talked-about movies of the season.

The last few weeks have been incredible between the Producers Guild of America win and the Oscar nominations.
It’s incredible. We’re in a constant state of thrilled. Thrilled. Tired. And thrilled. Those are our three states.

Have you been surprised by the response to the film?
It’s an interesting thing, the difference between making a movie – putting it together, being inside it – and what it becomes once you let it go. With a comedy you make it, you laugh, you work hard on it. You put it out and a year and a half later, you kind of know what the movie has really become. We didn’t know until two years after “Anchorman” what it really became. This one’s different; it’s much more immediate. It’s a topic going on right this second. And with the awards attention it puts it on a more immediate track. It’s immediately active and alive. There’s usually two more stages to a movie; when it comes out on demand and the moment where it comes on cable and Netflix. I’m curious what those stages will be like with a movie like this.

What’s been the response from people in the finance industry to the movie?
It’s been really interesting. What I’ve noticed is the people in the industry day to day, working in finance, tend to tell me how much they love the movie but they do it quietly, off to the side. You can’t really go around saying. “That movie nailed it!” Then there’s the pro bank people who write for newspapers, we’ve had one or two hit pieces. The New York Post went crazy, they had like three furious pieces. The best was Elizabeth Warren. She openly said, “Yes this happened, it’s disgusting and awful and I’m doing everything I can to fix it.” But best of all has just been the response from regular people. That’s been great and that’s why we made the movie.

Popular on Variety

You’ve done a lot of cameos in your films, most notably you were Dirty Mike in “Anchorman.” Are you getting more and more recognized in public now?
There’s been an uptick, no question. I used to joke that the only places I ever got recognized were the Arclight and comic-book stores. Now there’s way more walking down the street encounters. People don’t call me Dirty Mike in person, but I get it on social media quite a bit.

What’s up next? Do you feel pressure with the follow-up now that you’re an Oscar nominee?
I’m kicking around a bunch of ideas, but I don’t feel any pressure. It just opens the doors even wider and means there are more options, which is great. I never think about where it’s going to end up, more about, “Can I spend the next year working on this?”

You’re a producer on “Drunk History,” will you ever go on the show?
Early on I said I would do it. And then I realized I have kids. They don’t need to see dad hammered on TV. Otherwise, I would have done it in a heartbeat.

Have your kids seen your movies? What do they think?
They both saw “The Big Short.” Lily, my oldest, loved it — she’s 15. Pearl, my youngest, enjoyed the energy of it, I’m not sure she totally understood it. They both love “Talladega Nights,” that tended to be a favorite. And they both like “Anchorman.” Those were the first two they hooked on. The only one I don’t think Pearl’s seen is “Step Brothers,” that’s the dirtiest one. Maybe I did watch “Step Brothers” with Pearl and fast forwarded through the two sections that are dirty.

The Kathryn Hahn scenes?
Exactly! You know precisely what I’m talking about. And maybe the balls on the drum set.

Pearl actually appears in “The Big Short” as the star of the viral video “The Landlord.” Was she pleased to see herself in the film?
It’s funny, she’s just so blasé about it now. She was also in “Boyhood.” One of the age-change moments he signaled it through viral videos and they were watching “The Landlord.” They asked me to approve it and I did and then I forgot about it. I didn’t know it was going to become this all-time classic movie. People would say, “You know Pearl’s in ‘Boyhood?’” So now I think she just expects to be in Oscar movies every single year.

More Film

  • ‘On the Record’: Film Review

    'On the Record': Film Review

    “On the Record,” a documentary that presents the former music executive Drew Dixon’s accusations of sexual harassment and rape against the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons (it includes several other Simmons accusers as well), is the fourth major documentary of the #MeToo era to offer an incendiary indictment of men who have used their power within [...]

  • Pain and Glory

    Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Pain and Glory’ Sweeps Spanish Academy Goya Awards

    MADRID — Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” took home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Antonio Banderas) and Best Original Screenplay at the 34th Spanish Academy Goya Awards, as well as Best Editing, Original Music and Supporting Actress (Julieta Serrano). Almodóvar’s night did have one blemish, however. On the red carpet ahead of the ceremony [...]

  • Timmy Failure-Mistakes Were Made Disney Plus

    'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made': Film Review

    The passive voice is crucial to the title of “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” a Disney kid-detective caper with a clear enough moral: that owning your errors and apologizing for them is an essential part of growing up. If any individual mistakes have been made in the film itself, however, they’re as hard to pick [...]

  • Wander Darkly

    'Wander Darkly': Film Review

    Miserable parents Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) can’t afford therapy. Instead, Adrienne settles for a free Date Night, a casual party that only reminds the couple of their problems: his wish to regress to a slacker-style flophouse, her resentment that he’s never proposed, which has begun to curdle into a suspicion that they’re [...]

  • Mortal

    Saban Films Nabs U.S. Rights to André Øvredal Fantasy Thriller 'Mortal' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” director André Øvredal’s next adventure will see a U.S. rollout from Saban Films. “Mortal,” starring Nat Wolff, has sold domestic rights to the distributor In a deal brokered by Endeavor Content. TrustNordisk handled international rights. Saban president Bill Bromiley, currently on the ground at the Sundance Film Festival, [...]

  • Carey Mulligan poses for a portrait

    Carey Mulligan Suggests Oscar Voters Need to Prove They've Seen the Movies

    Carey Mulligan has made a conscious decision in recent years to collaborate with female directors, from Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”) to Dee Rees (“Mudbound”). On Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival, she’ll unveil “Promising Young Woman,” a thriller written and directed by Emerald Fennell, about a heroine out for revenge after experiencing a traumatic abuse. [...]

  • Andy SambergVariety Sundance Studio presented by

    Andy Samberg Calls Hosting the Oscars a 'Bad Gig' -- That He'd Still Consider

    Andy Samberg has been a reliable favorite hosting awards ceremonies, in recent years emceeing the Independent Spirit Awards, the Emmys and the 2019 Golden Globes with Sandra Oh. So it’s only natural to wonder if Samberg would consider taking the reins on the Oscars, which will return again this year without a host. “They have [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content