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.

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.

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