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ARBITRAGE

Casting The Women Around Robert Miller
One of the most important components of the film's casting was putting together the women around Miller: his wife Ellen, daughter Brooke, and mistress Julie. For Ellen, the role was always written for Susan Sarandon, "who possesses everything I want in a wife -- brilliance, beauty, and heart," says Jarecki. "I also needed someone who could have shared humble beginnings with Robert and Susan was able to play that perfectly."

"Susan has a great depth and vulnerability as well as strength that she brings to everything she does," adds Gere. "The part wouldn't work unless the audience feels her pain at having made certain decisions in her 30-year marriage. Both of these people have to face the reality that their choices took them where they are now."

Sarandon was actually on board the project from the beginning and "stuck with it through the ups and downs when we were putting the film together," Jarecki adds. "Her commitment to the project was incredible." Notes Sarandon, "I'll always give somebody a shot who has a vision and enthusiasm for that vision and Nick definitely had that."

It's not the first time that Gere and Sarandon have played husband and wife together and the two are great friends. "We are like two old hookers, Susan and I," Gere laughs. "We've known each other forever." The chemistry was very exciting for Jarecki who watched them in rehearsals and immediately felt like they had been married for 30 years. "They had a fantastic dynamic," he recalls.

Sarandon delivers a sly performance where the audience is never sure if she is complicit in her husband's fraud; whether she's naïve or turning a blind eye about his mistress and business dealings. "All of these questions come up as you watch her," says Bickford. "She's brilliant at the nuances that keep you on your toes wondering what she's thinking and what's going on."

Sarandon explains, "I think that Ellen is in love with her husband. Robert is charismatic and smart and kind of playful and obviously very charming, and I think they have been through a lot. They do love each other in a very comfortable kind of way but I think this last incident that he's involved in has the potential to push her over the line."

"Ellen loves her husband and is willing to stick with him through a lot. Susan portrays that resilience like nobody else," adds the director. "She's a conflicted character like all of the people in this film; everyone's got tough decisions to make!"

Many of the decisions Ellen has made have been to preserve her family, in particular her daughter Brooke. A lot of the film's tension comes from this character especially when she learns her father has betrayed her and their relationship begins to crumble.

The filmmakers needed a gifted actress who had life and vibrancy for the role. "I wanted her to be not only brilliant, but exceptionally beautiful so it was clear she had many choices, that she could have done anything," explains Jarecki. "She is part of the empire because she believes in her father, their way of life and what they are doing. But she also had to be brilliant to be believable as a hedge-fund manager and because she has a great role in the story of unmasking the truth."

Jarecki had been meeting with many actresses when Turen introduced him to Another Earth, the film Brit Marling had co-written, produced and starred in at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Jarecki was impressed with her remarkable achievement. "I had so much respect for her that she had written and produced her own movie together with a group of friends, starred in that movie and taken it to Sundance and got it sold and out to the world. That's no easy feat," the director recalls. At the same time, Jarecki discovered that Marling had studied economics at Georgetown and worked as an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs before giving it all up to make movies. Says Jarecki, "Apart from her talent and dedication, her true-life story really sealed the deal-she was Brooke!"

Gere was also very taken by her performance. "She's just wonderful in it, very moving, very touching and very real. There's a really delicate quality to her that's not really actable that you can't make an actor do; they either have that quality or they don't and she definitely has it."

When Marling first read the screenplay, she found it was a race to the end. "That's what a really great thriller does. It shows you a character right away that you are intrigued by and that's Robert Miller. He's very complex, not easy to understand and from the word go you are racing through this story wanting to find out what's going to happen to him." She also liked the story's slant that it was Robert's daughter and not his son who will take over the family business.

On their father/daughter relationship, Marling explains that for Brooke, working with her father was her way of building a relationship with him. "She's naturally much better in this world than her brother so she and her father have formed a deep, close bond over work, which he doesn't even share with his wife."

Marling and Jarecki met for the first time on Skype. "She was terrific and came into it knowing the business world which very few actors would have been exposed to," the director points out. In turn, Marling was incredibly excited about the project. "I loved the way Nick saw the story, his passion and enthusiasm for making it. Within five minutes of talking, he asked me to come to New York and meet with him and Richard. I left the following day."

From that very first meeting, Marling felt lucky to be working with Gere. "Richard is always present so that if for a moment you are thrust outside of the illusion you are trying to create, you just look at him and he sucks you right back into the story."

Marling compares watching Miller's world crumble to "watching a cashmere sweater pull apart thread by thread. It starts out that Robert has this really picturesque life: the jet, the beautiful home, the perfect family, then right away you're inside the rotting interior of that perfect red apple." At the same time she empathizes with him and that's what she finds interesting. "He's not a bad person, but his morality unravels and when you start making compromises, after a short time you are suddenly really far off from the person you want to be."

Marling describes her character as very fierce with a gentle side. "Brooke's ambitious and she's very smart, but she's also deeply romantic. The way she sees her father and the way she sees the world is under the veil of innocence and youth. She really wants to believe that her father is good and that everybody is doing the right thing and then of course that vision of things starts to crumble."

On her financial background, Marling agrees this experience was really useful. "It definitely brought a lot to the table just understanding the way that world works, the obsession with markets, information, staying on top of things and predicting trends." However she still wanted to do additional research and also spent time following a woman who works at a hedge fund. "That was really amazing because hedge funds are primarily a male-dominated space. I wanted to see how she carried herself and operated in that world."

In the end Julie Cote, Robert's mistress, was the most difficult role to cast. "We needed an erotic charge and danger," explains Jarecki. The filmmakers looked at close to 70 actresses for the part. "We wanted someone who had a real life and a job that you believe in so it's not a total tragedy that she's being supported by Robert," says Bickford. "She also had to be the right age and the right blend of beauty and sensuality."

In the end, the suggestion of Laetitia Casta came from the film's cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, who alerted the director to the fact that Casta had reinvented herself outside of the fashion world as a serious dramatic actress.

Jarecki was already familiar with her work as a fashion model. "She's one of the great beauties of this world, but she's also emerged as a gifted actor, someone who's taken chances with real filmmakers like Tsai Ming-Liang and in movies like Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life in which she starred as Bridget Bardot. Laetitia is someone that a man who has everything could really, irrationally, risk everything for. That's what we needed for this role to work."

"There's definitely something about Julie that represents a life-changing possibility," adds Gere. "She's very real, not just a pretty girl or an affair so that the decision he makes that night leads to a disaster he has to deal with for the rest of the movie." This is fundamentally what attracted Casta to the material. "I wasn't just playing a pretty lover. It was much more interesting than that so I was happy to take the role and also the chance of working with a first-time director in a foreign country."

When Miller is brought under the suspicion of the NYPD, it's Detective Michael Bryer who relentlessly pursues him. Tim Roth is one of the director's favorite actors of all time. "Tim performance as Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs made me want to make movies and I had to try not to talk too much about it," he laughs. "Tim plays Robert's antagonist so I needed someone with the power, intelligence and viciousness that would make you believe he's a real threat to Robert. Tim brought those qualities in spades."

Roth had just completed another season of Lie To Me and was ready for something different. "The idea of doing an American character again was appealing and it was very tidily and dryly written which I liked."

"Roth brought a particular fury to the part and really made a lasting impression with his character, a cop pursuing justice who is also corrupt - because he's also flawed," explains Jarecki. "I think that's what these characters share in common. Nobody's perfect and nobody gets away clean."

Detective Bryer knows Robert is guilty of his crimes but there's nothing he can do about it -- and his greatest fear is that Robert walks away free. "Bryer isn't impressed by his wealth -- he's pissed off by it. He thinks guys like Miller are crooks so it's just like dealing with a crook who's got the wherewithal to get away with it if he can buy his way out of a situation," the actor explains. "He's seen these rich guys get away with things and he's reached the point where he's not gonna let that happen again."

Jarecki always had a very specific idea in mind for Jimmy Grant, something in his head he couldn't get past, to the point that the producers wondered if this person really existed. They looked at every young African American actor they could find, viewing around 60 tapes. In the end they met with ten people. "I kept thinking, its 3am in the morning, who can you call who you can trust?" says the director. "It's a very complex part. They know each other and have shared a past experience that has deep resonance and now they are very much in each other's lives again in a pressure cooker situation where Jimmy goes on the line for Robert. What kind of guy would do that in this terrible circumstance?"

Gere's agent introduced Jarecki to Nate Parker whose work he was already a fan of from The Secret Life Of Bees and The Great Debaters. "Andrew rang me and said 'Nate's doing this.' I told him 'I love Nate, but I have so many ideas in my head right now.' But Andrew kept calling, each time in a low but forceful tone, simply repeating, 'Yeah, yeah, I know you have your process, but Nate's doing this' insisting he was the only man for the part. As soon as I actually met Nate, I realized that somehow without knowing it, I had written the script for him all along. You really believe in Jimmy and hope for him when you watch this character because you have faith in him and that's what Nate brings to the role. As Brit Marling once said to me, 'Nate radiates integrity.'"

What excited Parker about the project was the screenplay and the way his character was written. "I read a lot of scripts with parts for African American men and only two out of 40 are actually representing us in a way that's positive." Parker also felt very connected to Jimmy. "I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia in the Projects Tower Park with cement floors and perforated steel stairs so I know that environment. I know the difficulties you face everyday just getting out of bed."

To prepare for his role, Parker spent time with a kid from a program he works with in Brooklyn for underserved communities who reminded him of Jimmy. "We just talked and talked about Brooklyn and the streets -- what's going on here? What are the struggles of the lifestyle? He was as a really great help to get me there."

Gere was impressed with Parker's performance. "One of my earlier films was with Denzel Washington and I remember coming home one night and saying to my agent -- hey, I just worked with this terrific actor -- Denzel, who of course became one of our great leading men and I think Nate has that in him. He's his own person obviously but he's got that potential inside him. He's wonderful."

When Parker first met Gere he welcomed the young actor with a hug and said, "I'm so glad you are here," instantly putting him at ease. "For someone who's an up-and-coming actor, Richard's a legend. He's been one of the best for decades and to have him receive me in that way instantly made me open up in rehearsals and gave me the confidence to talk to him about the scenes and how I felt."

The rehearsal process was one of the true luxuries of Arbitrage; that the director and actors were able to have nearly a full month's rehearsal before filming began. "Richard was the most committed partner I could have hoped for in a lead actor," notes Jarecki. "He said to me early on, 'you know I like to be there from the time the first assistant's desk is rolled in.' True to his word he came to my apartment every day for a month and we met with every actor in the film." The actors gathered around Jarecki's laptop rewriting scenes and dialogue, typing out pages and acting out scenes over and over faster than the new pages could come out of the printer, something they could never have achieved on set.

"Nick really prepared himself more than any other director I have seen," Bickford comments. "The rehearsal period cemented his relationship with the actors. It gave him a solid foundation for shooting and brought a whole other layer to this thriller."

As part of their research, Jarecki, Marling and Gere toured the New York stock exchange and lunched with powerful corporate-raiders, meeting all sorts of traders and hedge fund operators. "What Richard kept asking them was about their wives, their personal lives, not just business. Their support and honesty about who they were became a great asset." The cast and Jarecki also continued to work through the Vanity Fair articles, underlining passages, making notes and discussing them in terms of the screenplay and their character's motives.

Jarecki insisted on a fun and open environment for rehearsals. "We weren't trying to execute something I had already written. We were trying to discover things in the process, to explore themes and characters and make the dialogue better. That passion carried through to the set and once we got there we were free to take even more chances."

By the time the filmmakers were in production, they still hadn't cast the role of Mayfield, a name the audience keeps hearing throughout the movie. Says Jarecki, "It's the Orson Welles part -- you're hearing about him the whole movie and then -- boom, in he comes. So I knew we needed someone truly powerful and believable." It was Bickford's idea to cast Graydon Carter, the Editor-In-Chief of Vanity Fair and an old friend. "Graydon is the one person I know who has been consistently writing and commissioning the best writing about the financial crisis. To cast him as the head of a bank in the forefront of Robert's crime seemed authentic -- no stunt casting!"

Although he always knew the role would be a great cameo opportunity, Jarecki never could have predicted it would be Carter, "particularly because he's responsible for the incredible financial writing that inspired our movie," says Jarecki. "The filmmakers had been looking for an actor who could bring bravado, credibility and power to that part and although he isn't a trained actor," the director insists, "Graydon has the stature, grace, and intelligence to carry off that role."

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