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About The Production
In the wake of the crisis that rocked the world's financial markets in 2008, a lot of people asked that same question of the engineers of the disaster. How does a man confront the fact of failure, a failure that might not only cost him his job, but cost millions of people their entire livelihoods? J.C. Chandor's riveting and deeply-felt thriller Margin Call takes us where no film has taken us before: inside the heart of one of Wall Street's too-big-to-fail financial titans, a sharply-etched snapshot of a world and a group of people on the brink of collapse.

Unfolding over the course of roughly 24 hours, Margin Call takes us from the moment of dawning suspicion that something is terribly wrong, to the full recognition of the scope of the disaster, to the sifting through the wreckage—both personal and financial—when the final bell rings and the "bloodbath” of trading comes to a close. From junior analysts to CEO titans, every member of the corporate hierarchy must come to grips with the nightmare-come-true, and their own roles in creating it. Rising to the task of bringing this story to life is an all-star ensemble that includes Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci.

While it's possible to say, without exaggeration, that the financial crisis has affected virtually everyone on the planet, the roots of Margin Call emerge from a highly personal place for firsttime writer/director J.C. Chandor. "I think a lot of people have wondered where I sort of gained a fundamental understanding of this industry, not having worked in it,” he shares. "But my father worked in this business, for Merrill Lynch, for almost 40 years, so I certainly had a fundamental knowledge of the people in this world and most importantly had a strong understanding of what and who they cared most about.”

Chandor consulted with his father and a wide array of financial industry veterans who played an important role in ensuring Margin Call was an authentic representation of the scenarios and personalities that are specific to the financial industry. His father Jeffrey states, "What I think J.C. picked up on are times in my life where I had to frantically hire people during a period of boom, and then fire people, some of whom he knew, during the bad times.”

He continued, "Wall Street is traditionally not a well-managed business, as a business. There are very good traders, very good investment bankers, and very good sales people, but making that work as a business that is profitable year-in and year-out with some consistency is tough. And there aren't that many firms that are good at it in this business. To put all of these elements into a story so that an average guy-on-the-street can understand and potentially learn about the business is J.C.'s talent. That is what he is good at.”

For actor and producer Zachary Quinto (Star Trek), that personal perspective was crucial to the script's effectiveness and appeal. "It was just so clear, even before I really got to know J.C., that this story was coming from somewhere very intrinsic in him,” he notes. "It's just so wonderful to see a creative extension of someone's experience fall so seamlessly onto a page and be so playable from a perspective of being an actor, it's really unique.”

That personal relationship to the material gives Chandor a unique level of insight into the inner lives of his characters, turning what might, in other hands, have become an anti-corporate screed into a richly nuanced and ultimately empathetic group portrait. "It's really a human story at its core,” explains Chandor. "I tried to look at it with a more sympathetic eye on both sides. It's not like I'm a banker who is defending other bankers, but also knowing a lot of these people, you recognize that it's not pure evil, either.”

As Quinto elaborates, "one of my favorite things about this screenplay that it doesn't judge. It's not written to drag these people through the coals or to hang them by their toes. It's actually an exploration of the choices people make in their lives and of how much was ultimately out of their control. J.C. understands on a very deep and personal level, and I think there's a lot of integrity in that.”

Not only is Margin Call the work of a first-time writer/director, but of a trio of young first-time producers as well: Quinto, Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa, who together comprise the principals of Before the Door Pictures. "It was about a year and a half before Star Trek came out,” recalls Quinto, "when Neal and I had our first conversation about this desire I had to take some control over the stories I'm a part of as an actor, and over the stories that are being injected into the mainstream of our industry. Literally from that point to now it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I think I'll ever have.”

Fortunately, as first time producers, the Before the Door trio had some assistance in getting the film set up. Michael Benaroya and Rob Barnum of Benaroya Pictures are themselves young producers, but having been down the road before on such films as New York, I Love You and The Romantics, were in a position to put the pieces of the financial puzzle in place. "We just felt there were so many different ways we could cast each role… There are so many powerful scenes, it was something that we felt we could definitely pull off at any number of different budgets. I think the iteration we ended up going with was probably the ‘larger' version, but I think we could have made this movie for a number of different budgets, depending on what cast we got.”

The team is rounded out by producer Joe Jenckes, longtime friend of J.C. who brought the material to Before The Door and was on the ground every day. Veterans Cassian Elwes and Laura Rister were indispensable executive producers, as was Joshua Blum, whose Washington Square Films was the New York home for the film from pre-production through post.

Most first-time filmmakers would consider themselves lucky to land a "name” actor or two. Chandor and his producers enjoy an embarrassment of riches that includes two Oscar-winners, two Oscar nominees, and a generous handful of other familiar faces from Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA lists.

The initial attraction was, of course, Chandor's tight, intelligent, propulsive script. "That's a pretty rare thing finding a really good script,” confirms Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones, The Devil Wears Prada), who plays fired risk analyst Eric Dale. "It's so intelligently written, so believable—at least from what I know from having friends in this world. The dialogue was real without being self-consciously naturalistic; it has a wonderful rhythm to it and subtle drama. There was nothing heavy-handed about it. It was all the best things that an independent is supposed to be.”

Tucci's sentiment is joined by Paul Bettany. "It felt like a like David Mamet, but in a good way,” recalls Bettany, chuckling as he clarifies, "Well, that is a good thing. But it didn't feel like a bad version of Mamet. It felt wordy and fast-paced and exciting, and it felt like it would give me a lot of opportunities as an actor.”

Bettany isn't alone in singling out that quality of the script, which for all of its vivid language, provides an intimate and unique portrait of its subjects, locating these ordinarily powerful men and women in their moments of greatest vulnerability. Well, that and working with Kevin Spacey, who sits at the center of the film as the deeply co


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