Craig Gillespie’s Dumb Money is an outrageously hilarious take on a widely true story of the infamous GameStop Wall Street scandal in 2021, when regular investors bought up shares in the floundering video game retailer to punish "short selling" hedge funds looking to trade them at a loss.
Paul Dano and Seth Rogen are seen on opposite ends of a tug-of-war within one of America’s biggest institutions, Wall Street, and Gillespie wants audiences to start a dialogue while holding people accountable. “It’s a social cause,’ Gillespie tells me in an interview ahead of the world premiere of his film at TIFF.
The film, which releases wide Sept 29, sparks a conversation as we see the battle between the haves and have-nots: Hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Rogen) vs amateur investor Keith Gill (Dano), overworked and underpaid nurse (America Ferrera), Gamestop employee (Anthony Ramos) and several college students.
Gillespie dishes to Complex Canada on getting his cast together, how he himself had invested in GameStop, and who surprised him in the film.
This is an unbelievably crazy, but true story. What was the most ridiculous fact that you didn’t believe was true?
Oh, that's a tough one. There's so many different things. The first thing that comes through obviously is the pig. (Steve Cohen) actually had a pet pig for 10 years, apparently. And eventually it got too big and they had to give it up to a farm. The other thing is that Kevin Gill (played by Pete Davidson) did run the mile naked in college.
I did read that you invested in GameStop and so did your son?
Yes, I deeply invested (laughs). My son's trajectory is very similar to the college students in this film. He timed it perfectly. And the intensity and the stress on the day when it spiked to 400. Every three minutes he was checking... he was up 50 times his initial investment. It was just a refresh, refresh when's he gonna get out? As parents you know, we’re like, ‘You're not selling, what are you doing?’ All of that is now in the film.
There’s a certain energy with your scripts and films—how did you want to make this film had the right energy but also different from the Wall Street films we’ve seen in recent years.
Obviously yes, it's Wall Street in one sense, but to me it's a much larger commentary. It’s a disparity of wealth with the backdrop of COVID, which started that conversation. People were being alienated and had real financial issues, real health issues and having to stop and really evaluate their lives and you start to feel this anger and resentment. And Gamestop became a mouthpiece for it. That's why there’s suddenly 8 million people in eight weeks starting to go off to Wall Street because that 1% are in front of their faces and flaunting it with their social media so there's that outrage. So that to me was what was interesting. It wasn't about the institution or the stock exchange. It was the social cause.
From the time you started work on this, what's the one thing you wanted to avoid from the get go in terms of the story or vision of the film?
We didn’t want to repeat ourselves. It was a different story than what I’ve been doing… We wanted this to be a pressure cooker in a sense, and oddly—which is an unusual emotion to want to come out of the film—I wanted people to come out being outraged and frustrated and wanting to make a difference and continue this dialogue and hold people accountable. It's an unusual thing to strive for.
Paul Dano is brilliant in this. I read that you had more time with him to prep for the scenes, and because of that collaboration you had some different scenes turn out.
What's amazing is that Paul is such a brilliant actor. The way that his process is he does as much homework as he can. So he would prep. I'm sure he watched all of the videos. And he did seven hour videos for a year when preparing for a week. Then on top of that, we'd start talking about the situations and what was happening and he'd be like, ‘Well hang on a second. At this moment, he's just been subpoenaed, and he's also just gotten fired from his job. Let's see that scene.’ What's going on in the house when he lost $30 million in 24 hours? What happens in his house when he's up $22 million and his parents are finding out? Those are the things he’d talk about that he was really interested in figuring out and just doing the forensics of how he is online and when that happened when he was subpoenaed, these are the videos he was posting and sort of trying to engage his body language and his energy level and like what clues that would give us about what the home life was like?
"I wanted people to come out being outraged and frustrated and wanting to make a difference and continue this dialogue and hold people accountable. It's an unusual thing to strive for."
It’s such a fantastic cast. Who surprised you with what they were able to deliver?
I am so dogmatic with my casting. I have a very specific time that I'm going to go for and it all comes down to a cast. They can either do that or they can’t. To be able to dance between comedy and humor, it's something that I think is ingrained in an actor so I need that upfront. So they don't typically surprise me because I've had so desperately wanting that individual. In this case, I was so lucky to get everybody that I wanted. I hadn't worked with America before so that was a pleasant surprise in terms of just she I needed that ferocity and that frustration, she's representing, like a group of people that like really, really needed to be heard that she also had to dance for humor in that without losing the weight of what was going on is a very tricky thing as an actor. She could do it so effortlessly. Kind of a reverse side Dane DeHaan came to me and he's like, ‘Hey, I'm thinking I'll have adult braces and a rat tail. (laughs). Dane’s bringing stuff to his character and said, ‘I think we should reveal it much later in the movie’ and I’m like, ‘I think you're right.’
Was there a moment that you couldn’t believe you pulled off on-screen?
The complications of trying to schedule everybody together all of the time here was a massive jigsaw puzzle and even at the time, Paul was doing press for The Fabelmans and Pete was doing a television show. Trying to get those scheduled like when we would have them we have to adapt it or we would change locations. That was something that was a real dance, but it made for some really magical moments.