Wonga Secures Crucial City Watchdog Licence

Category: Short-term Lending
Published: Friday, 22 January 2016
Written by Super User

Sky News can reveal that Wonga was on Monday granted full authorisation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), just weeks before an interim permission to operate was due to expire.

The granting of a licence comes as Wonga, the UKs biggest payday lender, seeks to diversify its business away from the short-term lending model that made it a lightning rod for political and public anger over the sectors rapid growth.

Neither the FCA nor Wonga had planned to make public statements about the regulators decision to authorise the company, but in response to an enquiry from Sky News, Andy Haste, Wongas chairman, said:

FCA authorisation is an important milestone for Wonga as we continue to build a responsible business with a long-term future, putting customers and good governance at the heart of everything we do."

We have made progress against our commitment to deliver change and the FCA's examination of the business has been rigorous and thorough.

We support the work of the FCA and we will continue to work with them openly and constructively as a responsible participant in the financial services sector."

The authorisation process has been a requirement since the City watchdog assumed responsibility for regulating thousands of consumer credit providers in 2014.

Wonga began trialling a 90-day loan late last year which allows customers greater flexibility to spread repayments over a longer period.

The product, which is being piloted for several months, was the first extension of the Wonga brand to be unveiled since the company announced that it had made a loss of more than £37m in 2014.

My 2016 Market Outlook - Opportunities Will Abound

Category: Short-term Lending
Published: Thursday, 21 January 2016
Written by Super User

Despite this deterioration in corporate and economic fundamentals, the Federal Reserve decided to raise short-term interest rates in December. I believe this to be the primary reason for the precipitous decline in US stock prices that began on the first day of trading in 2016. It has instigated a deleveraging process in risk assets that is an unavoidable consequence of seven years of zero-interest-rate policy. Who is deleveraging? The institutional behemoths, primarily hedge funds, who have used the repurchase market (repos) as a source of short-term borrowing to fund their speculative investment strategies on a longer-term leveraged basis. A mere 25 basis point (1/4 of 1%) increase in borrowing cost may not impact a consumers decision as to whether or not to buy a car or a home, but it may completely undermine a speculative investment strategy that has paper thin margins and employs leverage.

On the last day of 2015, the Fed sold a record $475 billion in Treasury securities to banks, funds and brokers though its reverse repo facility, which is a part of its open market operations intended to raise short-term interest rates. It is effectively withdrawing liquidity from the financial markets. The result was rise in short-term lending rates above the 50 basis point target for the Fed Funds rate. Is it a coincidence that this increase coincided with the onset of a stock market plunge the very next day? I dont think so.

As for the magnitude of the relentless decline that took place last week, I believe our broken market structure contributed to it. We used to have non-profit exchanges where human beings had obligations to make fair and orderly markets. They have been replaced with private, profit-seeking exchanges that cater primarily to computerized trading programs. These computer algorithms have replaced the human market makers, but they have no obligation to make markets. When there is an imbalance between buyers and sellers in either direction, they exacerbate the move by providing liquidity to the market or withdrawing it all together. It depends on whether or not they can profit. I believe last week was an example of what happens when they withdraw liquidity. Perhaps 2016 will be the year that high-frequency trading is finally exposed as a manipulative and destructive scam that has absolutely nothing to do with investing. Until then, prepare yourself for a continuation of the type of volatility we witnessed last week, but in both directions.

Hank Abbott Opens FastTrackLenders.com to the Public

Category: Short-term Lending
Published: Wednesday, 06 January 2016
Written by Super User

Money woes are a thing of the past

New York, NY (PRWEB) December 31, 2015

Fast Track Lenders Offering Small Business Owners Unique Funding Opportunities

Hank Abbott is excited to shine the spotlight on a very successful 2015 for Fast Track Lenders, LLC, a business that specializes in helping small business owners raise the necessary capital to grow and groom their business. The funding specialists at Fast Track Lenders, LLC offer a variety of short-term loans for small business owners nationwide. Funding requirements are not just based on the individuals credit score, but other aspects.

Weve been doing this a long time and understand the importance of obtaining business funding, said Hank Abbott, Senior Funding Specialist with Fast Track Lenders. Our goal is to get your business on the fast track. Thats why we offer very flexible funding requirements. If youve been in business for atleast six months, have a business banking account and three months worth of statements then you may be in the running for short-term lending from us.

With terms up to two-years and a payment schedule that ranges from daily to weekly, Fast Track Lenders is leading the charge to help start-ups around the country get their businesses up-and-running. With no personal guarantees, no money up front or tax returns necessary, the application is as easy as 1-2-3. With a simple one-page application you can be pre-qualified for a short-term loan that suits your needs. Whether it is working capital funding, credit card processing, investment funding for growth, lines of credit, SBA loans, PO financing, asset based or revenue based, there is an option out there for any owner.

We are a direct wholesale lender and do all of our funding in house. What this means is that we are actively involved in every aspect of your quest for business capital, continued Abbott. With no personal guarantees or pre-payment penalties we truly are here to help any business owner thats in need. Sometimes a baker is just an oven away from a thriving business or a mechanic is a new lift away from opening his second shop. Thats what we do, we help people achieve their goals, ended Abbott.

Fast Track Lenders, LLC, is a New York-based business specializing in short-term loans for business owners across the United States.

Hank Abbott
Fast Track Lenders, LLC
Direct Line: 347-688-6293
Fax: 844-668-5589
E-mail: hank.abbott(at)fasttracklenders.com

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/01/prweb13147562.htm

'Funny Or Die' Creator Adam McKay Takes On The 2008 Economic Crash In 'The Big ...

Category: Short-term Lending
Published: Tuesday, 05 January 2016
Written by Super User



This is FRESH AIR. Im Terry Gross. My guest, Adam McKay, is best-known for writing and directing the comedies Anchorman and Talladega Nights. Hes a former Saturday Night Live head writer and co-founded the comedy website Funny or Die. He wrote and directed the new film The Big Short, based on Michael Lewiss nonfiction bestseller about the collapse of the housing and credit bubble in 2008, which led to the collapse of the global economy. The films main characters, played by Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale, predict the collapse, realizing what most Wall Street players and top American financial leaders have failed to either see or acknowledge - that the bubble is based on bad loans from mortgages that the homeowners will never be able to pay off. Heres a clip featuring Christian Bale as Michael Burry, a hedge fund founder and manager whos convinced that the securities of bundled mortgages are going to lose their value, so he shorts them. He bets against them. The people invested in this fund already thought he was odd - listening to speed metal, wearing T-shirts to the office, and going barefoot. In this scene, two of the investors in his hedge fund come to his office to tell him his strategy is crazy.


CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Michael Burry) Hey, Lawrence.

TRACY LETTS: (As Lawrence Fields) We have no confidence in your ability to identify macroeconomic trends.

BALE: (As Michael Burry) You flew here to tell me that? Why? Anyone can see that there is a real estate bubble.

LETTS: (As Lawrence Fields) Actually, no one can see a bubble. Thats what makes it a bubble.

BALE: (As Michael Burry) Thats dumb, Lawrence. Theres always markers - mortgage fraud, quintupled since 2000, an average take-home pay. Its flat, but home prices are soaring. That means the homes are debt not assets.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) So, Mike Burry, guy who gets his hair cut at Supercuts and doesnt wear shoes knows more than Alan Greenspan and Hank Paulson?

BALE: (As Michael Burry) Yeah, Dr. Mike Burry. Yes, he does.

GROSS: OK. Adam McKay, welcome back to FRESH AIR. I have to tell you, if you had come to me - and theres no reason why you would have want - done that - but if you had come to me and said, should I make this movie trying to explain the economic collapse of 2008 and trying to explain all the financial instruments that caused it, like CDOs, which stands for - I never remember what it stands for - collateral debt...

ADAM MCKAY: Collateralized debt obligation.

GROSS: Yeah, if you came to me and said, should I make a movie like that? Ill say - Id say, no, dont do it. Because I tried so hard in, like, 2008 and 2009 to, like, have interviews that explained what was going on. And we had on great explainers. And they would do a great job. And it was still always confusing cause this stuff is just intended to be confusing, I think. So why did you think you could actually make sense of it and make it an entertaining comedy even?

MCKAY: Well, you know, the book - I was lucky in the sense that we had a fantastic book by Michael Lewis. And what he did was - he did a very smart thing. He linked these amazing characters, these real people that saw the collapse coming before anyone else, with the vital information of the collapse. So their emotional arcs are tied to this information. So when I was done with the book I had a pretty good view of what had happened. It wasnt totally comprehensive. But most importantly I was just very emotionally engaged in these characters story and the world, too - how deep he goes into Wall Street. I never, you know, had that feeling of being so intimate with that world. So I knew right away, the fact that they were so attached to the information and the characters, that you could do it. And then the next step I did was I just asked a lot of questions of a lot of experts and read a lot of books. And my final kind of analysis was its really not that hard and that theres a lot of effort made on the part of the big banks and the ratings agencies and some of the financial media to make it so complicated so that people cant really react to it. But when I got to the essence of what really happened, it really wasnt that tricky.

GROSS: So had you lost money in the 2008 meltdown or known a lot of people who did?

MCKAY: I did lose money. I mean, my story is hardly worth bringing out the violin for because, you know, we were fairly well diversified and protected. But I had a close family member who lost their home. I had lots of friends who lost their jobs. It was more of a rippling kind of thing. And then even with the website I run with Will Ferrell, Funny or Die, we had to downsize. We noticed movie studios in towns started making fewer movies that put people out of work. So the effects were, you know, far-reaching. And then I just found it really interesting that before I read this book and started doing research I really didnt fully know what had caused it. I knew there was a housing bubble. I knew there was some negligence. And thats all I really knew. And I just thought that was crazy that we have this 24-hour-a-day news machine churning in this country and that somehow I didnt know the mechanics of how this had happened.

GROSS: So I just have to ask, have you invested a lot in the market? Like, did you think of yourself as an investor? And had you ever shorted anything? Cause the whole concept of shorting is essential to understanding how this whole game was played.

MCKAY: I have not shorted anything to this day. Although, we keep joking now - the people that worked on the movie - whenever we go to, like, a restaurant and we get bad service, we go, we got to short this place.


MCKAY: But shorting - no. You know, one of the worst things you can do is to know a little bit about something and think you know a lot. So Im lucky enough to have a really good financial advisor, and I still play it very conservatively. Ive almost shorted a couple companies, but thank god I didnt. One of them I was like, Im going to short them. And then since I had that thought, theyve gone up 20 percent. So dont listen to me for stock advice.

GROSS: So if you had to make, like, a one or two-minute pitch about what this movie is about, how would you describe it?

MCKAY: I would say its about a group of outsiders and weirdos and - but at the same time brilliant people that saw what no one else could see, billions of people did not see, which was that the world economy was going to collapse. And the question is, why did they see it when no one else saw it?

GROSS: And how would you explain how that meltdown was connected to the housing bubble?

MCKAY: I actually practiced this on my family.

GROSS: Oh, good.

MCKAY: I practiced with my wife and then eventually it got down to my 10-year-old daughter Pearl from The Landlord. And I got pretty good at it. So...

GROSS: Thats from your Funny and Die sketch The Landlord, yeah.

MCKAY: Exactly, exactly. And at first she like, Dad, stop, this is boring. And then eventually she was like, oh, I think I see what you mean. So all it is is that at one point in the late-70s, a guy thought, hey, mortgages are boring. You dont really make a lot of money off of them. But if you package thousands of them together and bundle them into one bond, a mortgage bond, you can then sell them, and with those returns you can make a lot more money. And because theres so many mortgages in it, its safe. So they started doing this. And they started making billions and billions of dollars. And banking started growing. It grew four times the size it was in the 70s to where it is now. But what happened was they ran out of good mortgages to put in these bonds cause theres only so many people that can buy homes, so they started filling them with crappy mortgages. They call them subprime when theyre really risky. So all the sudden these safe mortgage bonds that everyone goes, oh, theyre completely safe were filled with crap. And no one noticed or cared because everyone was making so much money. And then off of that they started making other types of bonds that were even riskier and riskier and riskier. And eventually those risky loans started defaulting, and that was it. It was like a Domino just went down. And it had spread to foreign banks at that point and really literally brought down the world economy for like - there was a day in America where the paper markets froze, which means there was no short-term lending, which means hospitals cant get medicine, which means municipalities cant get fluoride for their water. And then they did the bailout of course.

GROSS: Bravo. That was good.

MCKAY: That was pretty good, right?

GROSS: Im impressed.

MCKAY: All right.

GROSS: Im very impressed.


GROSS: Thats very good. And your main characters, like in the Michael Lewis book, The Big Short, are the people who figured out that a lot of the mortgages that were bundled into these securities werent any good, that there were going to be defaults on these mortgages and so that the characters in your story, the characters in the nonfiction book that theyre based on, bet against these mortgages. And then when the mortgages defaulted, they made a lot of money on these bets that they made.

MCKAY: Yeah, these were guys that really started with Christian Bales character, Dr. Michael Burry. I sort of call him the Oracle. And its really amazing what he did. He basically never left his office, and he sat in his office listening to heavy metal, and he read these mortgage bonds, which are filled - theyre so complicated. Theyre filled with thousands of mortgages. And he went line by line, and he read a bunch of the bonds and walked out of the room, saying, this is a house of cards. So he was the one who really saw it way before anyone else. And then yes, he shorted the housing bonds, and then, Carells character caught wind of it, Goslings character, the two young guys, Jamie and Charlie, played by Finn Wittrock, John Magaro with Brad Pitt, these were guys that believed in the market. They believed that when theres a bad investment, youre supposed to have a counter investment, and thats how the market stabilizes. So they were doing the right thing, initially. They were doing what the market is supposed to do. But theres a terrifying moment in the movie where they realize there are loans on the other side of the bet and that the whole markets been compromised, and the world economy could go down. So what they thought was a good, sound investment and them doing their job turned out they looked basically into the abyss. And to this day, when you talk to these guys, theyre still furious. Theyre still shocked. They still cant believe that no one was prosecuted. And most of all, theyre disillusioned.

GROSS: And theyre also very wealthy.

MCKAY: They are, but its funny. I mean, part of the movie is, you know, so much of our culture keeps score by money, but I didnt see any of these guys tap dancing around. Its not like theyre driving around in uber yachts and wearing, like, $7,000 suits. I mean, the primary emotion you get from them is disillusionment and anger.

GROSS: If youre just joining us, my guest is Adam McKay, and he wrote and directed the new film The Big Short, which is about the housing bubble and the toxic financial instruments that created the financial meltdown of 2008. Lets take a short break, then well talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if youre just joining us, my guest is Adam McKay and he directed such films as Anchorman and Talladega Nights, Stepbrothers. And his new film, The Big Short, is an adaptation of the nonfiction Michael Lewis book that told the story of the toxic financial instruments and the housing bubble that crashed the economy in 2008. So youve managed in The Big Short to tell the story of some of the main characters in the financial meltdown of 2008 in a comedy, in a very kind of lively film. And when you sat down and asked yourself how do I do this? How do I take this kind of complicated Wall Street story that a lot of people dont understand and make it understandable and also make it entertaining? Like, where did you - like, how did you start to wrap your head around a method for doing that?

MCKAY: I always viewed the movie as two movies. The first half, its a little bit like a card counting movie where, like, the MIT kids figure out how to count the cards at a blackjack table and theyre beating the evil casino. So theres a ton of energy to the front of the movie. Youre really rooting for these guys, and its kind of fun. Its fun to see the banks roll their eyes at them and you know the guys are right. Also some of the characters are very funny. Like - even though theyre being played very seriously and in a grounded way. Carells character, Mark Baum, and his whole team, when you meet the real people theyre very funny guys. And they joke around and give each other a hard time. So the first half of the movie does have that kind of energy and there are some laughs, and it has, like, motion to it thats really great. And then the second half I always viewed is where it becomes the tragedy. You think these guys have warned the village about the tsunami. Theyre up in the hills and then they realize the tsunami is 10 times bigger than the hill theyre standing on. So someone referred to the movie as a traumady (ph).


MCKAY: Like a combination tragedy comedy, which I think is kind of accurate. Yeah, it doesnt really fit cleanly into any kind of genre box, which is also what drew me to the story.

GROSS: So you have some cutaways for popular personalities, not that Im necessarily familiar with all of them (laughter) like actors Margot Robbie, and Chef Anthony Bourdain and actress and singer Selena Gomez. Explain some of the more complicated things. And theyre just, like, cutaways where, like, Anthony Bourdains in the kitchen and Margot Robbie is in a bubble bath. How did you come up with the idea to do cutaways like that and to find, like, the comedy - the comic way for them to explain it?

MCKAY: You know, it came about from, really, the - what I think once again is the central question of the movie, which is why did these people see it and we didnt when the numbers were so obvious if you looked at them? So one of the answers we started talking about was just this kind of white noise pop culture that America has a lot of. I mean, the rest of the world has it, too. So we started talking about the idea of, like, we want to represent that pop culture in the movie. We dont just want the movie to be in offices with Wall Street guys talking. We want to see what America is thinking. And then off of that thought I had the idea of, like, well, what would happen if pop culture actually gave us usable information? Like, what would happen if Kim Kardashian every time she was on camera explained the LIBOR rate scandal? You know, what would happen if any time youre watching a red carpet for an award show and everyone comes down in their gown, you know, each person, you know, talks about climate change statistics...

GROSS: (Laughter).

MCKAY: ...And the rapid change thats happening? And so thats kind of where it came from, and it felt satirical. It felt funny. It felt like it had energy. And at the same time, it was a great way to get this information across in a simple, understandable way.

GROSS: So I imagine you making this movie and shopping it to two different sets of people as you wrote it, giving it one first, like, to the experts who actually understand really well whats - what happened on Wall Street, getting their approval and then giving it to people who didnt follow what happened carefully and seeing if they comprehend what youve written. Is that what you did?

MCKAY: Thats exactly what we did. Yeah, it was a very interesting tug of war because we had - Adam Davidson was the consultant on the movie. He was an NPR guy. You know, he started Planet Money. And so he was the...

GROSS: And did this great piece with Alex Blumberg called The Big Pool Of Money for This American Life that explained one facet of the whole meltdown of 2008.

MCKAY: I agree. And I actually think its one of the better pieces about the meltdown. If anyone has a chance, definitely listen to it. It helped me a lot. So we had Adam Davidson, whos a really rigorous thinker. Hes a University of Chicago guy. And then obviously I was reading a lot and doing my own research, and then we had the real people that we would talk to as well. So somewhere in between that pocket and then on the other side I have to communicate with a regular audience. And we had some people in focus groups admit, like, they dont even know what a stock is or how a stock works. So there were little things that would happen, like when Steve Carell says sell everything at one point in the movie. You actually wouldnt say that. You would say unwind our position or its time to call in our shorts. Theres another way you would phrase it. So the experts said you would not say sell everything and I say, yeah, but an audience wont understand that unwind my position. What does that mean? So it became this kind of horse trading game where when it was a key story point I would say, well, can he - would it be terrible for him to say sell everything? And they would finally confess no. Its not crazy. There are some guys that would say that. So I go, OK, then were going to keep that.

GROSS: So one of the lines in The Big Short is that - Im paraphrasing here - that Wall Street went from the golf club to the strip club, you know, from these - you know, this image of these, like, you know, boring guys who, like - a little mens club. They go to the golf club to - youre, like, you know, rip roaring (laughter) out of control, you know, strip club kind of stuff. So did you come up with that line, with that praise, golf club to the strip club?

MCKAY: Yeah, I actually think its country club to the strip club, but youre correct.

GROSS: Oh, country club, oh, OK, right.

MCKAY: Yeah. I read a number that just shocked me, which was that banking was 6 percent of our GDP - our nations GDP - in the 70s and now its 24 percent. So it literally grew four times the size of what it used to be. And I would talk to people about, like, when I was a kid, I would watch, like, The Beverly Hillbillies and Mr. Drysdale, the banker on there, was, like, a lackey. He was, like, a toady.

GROSS: (Laughter).

MCKAY: And nowadays that would not be the depiction of a banker. The banker would be the guy in charge and the oil guy would be chasing him around. And so there was this massive shift that happened in the late 70s and a lot of it came about from these new types of bonds that they created. They call them, you know, securitizations, derivatives - theres a lot of different names for them. But basically theyre new kinds of bonds. And it just completely changed banking to the point where those types of sales became way more than - way more than securities, way more than stocks. And the amount of profits they were making just, you know, quadrupled, and with that came a lot of lobbying power. And that was when in the 80s was when the banks really said, like, hey, lets hit Washington, DC, and lets start giving out some checks, which as we know is what led to the deregulation that we saw in the late 80s and the 90s under - once again, under a Republican president and a Democratic president. This is not a right-wing, left-wing story. So that line was trying to kind of show that, that it went from the country club to the strip club. It went from this, like, safe almost accounting-like job to youre a rock star.

GROSS: And, you know, like, another example of how the stock market changed - I remember when I was growing up and the national news was on it would always end with how Wall Street did that day. It would be - and today the Dow Jones was up a quarter of a point or was down a half a point as opposed to up 300 or down 250 (laughter).

MCKAY: Absolutely.

GROSS: Yeah...

MCKAY: Yeah, volatility has gone through the roof. Theres no question.

GROSS: My guest is Adam McKay. He wrote and directed the new film The Big Short. After a break, well talk more about the film and about writing a sketch in which George Lopez plays the Mexican equivalent of Donald Trump. Im Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Im Terry Gross back with Adam McKay. He wrote and directed the comedies Anchorman and Talladega Nights and co-founded the comedy website Funny or Die. He wrote and directed the new film The Big Short, based on Michael Lewiss nonfiction book about a few of the high finance guys who realized that the credit and housing bubble was based on bad mortgages and toxic financial instruments and bet against those mortgage bonds. These guys made a fortune when the economy collapsed in 2008. The film stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling.

So occasionally in your story, Ryan Gosling, who is with Deutsche Bank in this story - his characters with Deutsche Bank and hes also kind of betting against the bank, but hes also the narrator of the film. And occasionally he comes on as the narrator and says, OK, that didnt really happen that way. But sometimes he comes on as the narrator and he says, what youre about to see, it really happened this way. Why did you decide to have the narrator explain when something was really fictitious and then reinforce the point when something seems so outrageous but was actually true?

MCKAY: You know, our whole goal with this movie was that we wanted to pull the curtain back as far as we could to see inside this world. And I really felt like you had to have this conversation with the audience - not the whole movie doing it, but occasionally we had to check in and just let the audience know were doing the best we can to really show you what happened. You know, it was influenced by theres a Michael Winterbottom movie called 24 Hour Party People that I really love that did a lot of that and, you know, a little bit from my theater background Id seen it work as well. So there would be certain scenes in the movie that were just so unbelievable that they actually happened that while Carells character was giving a speech about how Bear Stearns was no good and everyones going down, and hes arguing with a guy whos saying, no, Bear Stearns is fine, in the middle of that speech, Bear Stearns is plummeting while hes giving this speech. And if you wrote that as fiction, that would just be bad writing. I mean, its so cartoonish. And also the fact that Carells characters company found out about the deal through a wrong number, which is actually true. So I wanted to make it clear that these haphazard relationships, these kind of accidental, you know, deals that came about were absolutely true. And a lot of times thats how the world works.

GROSS: Some of the characters in your movie have real names, like Christian Bales character Michael Burry is a real name. But I think most of the major characters are fictionalized versions of the people theyre based on and the names have been changed. So how did you decide who was going to be based on a real person with their actual name and who was going to be more of a composite or a fictionalized version?

MCKAY: Really theyre all pretty much the real people. It was just a matter of some of them for privacy reasons didnt want their last name in there. Like Jamie and Charlie, who are Magaro and Finn Wittrock, those are the real guys first names. And same with Pitts character. They just...

GROSS: But not their last names?

MCKAY: But not their last names. They just did - they just said, please dont put my last name in the movie cause then everyone knows 100 percent its me. The one guy whos really kind of a composite is Goslings character. I would say hes a little bit influenced by the real guy, but because hes dancing in and out of the movie as a character and a narrator, I think thats the character where you see more liberties taken where hes definitely not doing an impression of the real guy. But, you know, a lot of the actions the real guy did he is doing, and theres some elements of the real guy in there.

GROSS: So lets talk about your casting. Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, who is a trader at a hedge fund. I want you to describe his character.

MCKAY: Yeah, hes brilliant. Hes, you know, the one - the funny thing in Wall Street is a lot of these guys will slag on each other, kind of like slightly poke at each other and go, hes not that good, hes not that good. But the one guy no one ever said a bad word about was Dr. Michael Burry. Like, everyone acknowledges that guy is a heavyweight genius. And, without exaggeration, his job, before he started a hedge fund, he was in his residency as a neurosurgeon and he got bored and (laughter). He got bored with neurosurgery and instead went and started this hedge fund. Hes an amazing guy. And I spent some time with him, and he listens to speed metal. I mean, Im not talking like light heavy metal. He listens to hard heavy metal. And he is on the spectrum, so hes able to hyper-focus. And he will sit at his office for 16 straight hours reading documents. Hes a sweet, sweet guy. And his experience to the whole thing was just really miserable. I mean, when he was certain that he was right and the markets didnt change, he got very physically ill and almost had his lower intestine - half of his lower intestine removed. And then the second that he sold his position or unwound his position, instantly the pains went away. So Christian spent a lot of time with him. They spent an entire day together just sitting in a room talking. And Christians very method, so Dr. Burry gave Christian his real clothes. And you see in the movie that he tends to wear this one T-shirt and shorts a lot that he actually wore during the period. And Christian learned how to play speed metal drums. And so it was an amazing process to work. I mean, we all know Christian Bales one of the great living actors, and to really just see him become this person was - it was kind of jaw-dropping.

GROSS: So lets talk about the character Steve Carell plays. And why dont you describe the character?

MCKAY: He plays a character Mark Baum, who is based on a real guy, Steve Eisman - and very, very strictly based on him actually. Hes really doing the character based on him. And Mark Baums a fascinating character. He really is a crusader. Hes really a guy who looks for corruption. He looks for the BS out there. And he looks for companies that are fluffing their numbers, that arent legit. And he relishes, you know, shorting them or putting sell orders on them. And he had had a long history of busting these bogus subprime companies back in, like, the late-90s, early 2000s. And he had this team of people that are played beautifully by Jeremy Strong, Hamish Linklater, and Rafe Spall. And they all sort of had this distrust of the system. Their basic approach was you have to prove to us that your company is legit, otherwise we assume youre not. So when this trade came across Carells character Mark Baums desk, he was more than ready for it when no one else was. And it quickly becomes a bit of an Ahab crusade for them, sort of the ultimate corruption deal, the ultimate sign that hes right all along, the entire system is rotten. And hes the guy who sort of represents his audience a little bit. His outrage matches ours. And at a certain point, kind of a lot like Ahab, he loses his mind a little bit. And really it all becomes about this personal crusade. And youre really kind of worried for him. Is he going to wait too long to sell? Is he going to self-destruct? And Carell just did an amazing job. I mean, he really transformed himself. He put on like 20, 25 pounds. And he really did this...

GROSS: Yeah, why did he need to do that? Why did you think he needed to do that?

MCKAY: You know, theres a quality to the real guy - the real guy is not a bad looking guy, but hes a little bit heavier. His clothes dont always fit him well. I wanted Steve to be a little bit schlubby. I didnt want him to be - you know, Steves a decent looking guy whos usually in good shape. And these guys are all the guys with the, you know, the lousy clothes, the bad haircuts. Theyre the guys who cant make eye contact. So I needed Steve to kind of just be a little off-balance and a little uncomfortable. And God bless Steve. He did it. And then the real guy is very - larger-than-life guy - really good guy, but definitely larger-than-life, and Steve found a way to really play him in this grounded way that still had vulnerability to it, yet righteous anger. And I really think its one of the best things Steves ever done, and he kind of blew everyone away on this movie.

GROSS: My guest is Adam McKay. He wrote and directed the new film The Big Short. Well talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If youre just joining us, my guest is Adam McKay, and he wrote and directed the new film The Big Short. And he also directed Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, Anchorman 2, and other films.

So you co-founded Funny or Die, and you do some videos for Funny or Die. And its a comedy website that has a lot of different contributors. And you recently did something very funny called Donaldo Trumpez with George Lopez as like the Mexican Donald Trump. Would you describe that video?

MCKAY: Yeah, there was a piece I wrote with Owen Burke, whos the new creative head of Funny or Die - actually, interestingly, whose dad was the - created Nightline, was like a tighten of the news world.

GROSS: Oh, youre kidding.

MCKAY: Yeah, its kind of interesting. And now his son runs Funny or Die. So the premise was - I just started laughing with Owen about the idea of, like, well, wait a minute, how do the Mexicans feel about, you know, all the drunk college students that come down there and all the criminals that escape and go hide in Mexico. So we came up with this guy Donaldo Trumpez, whos the, you know, the equivalent - the Mexican equivalent - of Donald Trump. And he wants to build a wall to keep the Americans out. And he wants to get rid of Sammy Hagar and his tequila. And he wants to get rid of Senor Frogs. And he wants to get rid of these factories that dont pay the workers any money and pollute their rivers. And it was funny. We were writing it as sort of an absurdist sketch, and about halfway through we realized, like, wait a minute, this guy has some good points.

GROSS: He also wants to build a wall separating America from Mexico because the Mexican cartels exist only because Americans have an insatiable appetite for cocaine. And he says the America - Americas colors should be red, white, and blow.

MCKAY: (Laughter) I think Owen wrote that line. I love that line. Absolutely, and by the way, kind of a valid point. So it was amazing. That thing caught fire. I think it got like 20, 25 million views on Facebook and a couple million on our site. And it just - yeah, it was very cool. And we specifically had Mr. Lopez do it in Spanish, too, which I thought was very cool.

GROSS: Its subtitled on Funny or Die.

MCKAY: I have a really funny other sketch I did but its in Mandarin. Do you think you could play that?


GROSS: Sure. What - youre kidding, though. Do you really have a Mandarin sketch?

MCKAY: Well, actually, they translated The Landlord at one point into about 20 different languages. So there really is a Mandarin subtitled Landlord thats out there. But, no, I have not recently written a Mandarin sketch.

GROSS: How do you think your sense of humor has changed over the years?

MCKAY: I definitely think through the years - I probably started more in my teenage, early 20s as just a fan of absurdist comedy. You know, I grew up on Monty Python and Steve Martin. I definitely think as Ive gotten older Ive just taken more of an interest in a lot of things in the world, so that leaks into my comedy more. But I still think at root I love comedy that has a prank quality to it, a comedy that messes with audiences and upends expectations or you think its one thing and its another thing. Ill always love that. Like, Im 47 years old, and I swear if they didnt have caller ID I would still be doing crank phone calls.

GROSS: Did you do crank phone calls as a kid?

MCKAY: Oh, my god, constantly. Oh, yeah. For pretty much...

GROSS: What was your thing?

MCKAY: (Laughter) Pretty much age 15 through college - we had one we would do in college where we would just - everyone was constantly getting pizza, you know, in the dorm rooms. So youd get a call and itd be like, hey, its, you know, whatever pizza place - Tonys Pizza - giving you your pre-call, be in the lobby in two minutes with your pizza. You take the elevator down. You get your pizza. You pay the guy. You go back up. So we would just sit around because they had a student guide, and so it was peoples names. So you would call them and go, hey, is this, you know, Ben Leviton (ph)? And they would go, yeah. And Id go, its your pre-call. Your pizzas coming. And theyd go, I didnt order a pizza. And wed just go, look, I dont have time for you smart-asses, you know. Just come and get your pizza. Im telling you, I didnt order a pizza. And wed just go like, look, I am so sick of you spoiled kids messing around with me. Im down here with your pizza. And then, eventually, wed talk them into a fight and itd be like, Ill fight you right now. And then my friend and I would run downstairs and go sit in the TV room. And wed watch these four or five jacked-up guys come out of the elevator pacing back and forth, flexing their muscles ready for a fight. And we did that dozens of times. And wed tell people that theyre, you know, they were having a hot tub delivered to their dorm room. Or wed call them up and tell them that I was an exchange student, that Im at the bus. Cause you could see it in the student guide they were a Spanish major. And its like, hello, Im Manuel. Im at the bus station. Im in from Nicaragua. Theyd be like, what are you talking about? Im supposed to stay with you. Youre a Spanish major. And we were idiots. We were full-on idiots. But, oh my god, would we laugh.

GROSS: Did you ever feel the least bit of guilt for doing this?

MCKAY: No. None whatsoever. They were all...

GROSS: Why not? Why not?

MCKAY: Cause the guys - you had to know - I mean, I went to Penn State for one year and then I transferred to Temple University. And theres a lot of guys at Penn State who are very jacked up and like to think of themselves as like wannabe football players and frat guys. And the idea of stirring up a bunch of those guys to come down into the lobby ready to fight. And then the hot tub one was harmless. No one ever did anything. Wed just call them and the person would be like, what, theres a hot tub? And, you know, same with the exchange student. It would all just kind of go away. So we werent taking anyones money. We werent putting anyone in danger. We were just kind of giving them a chaotic hard time, which I think is good. I think thats healthy on some level, as long as theres not serious emotional distress.

GROSS: Now I know early in your career, when you were at Second City in Chicago...

MCKAY: You - Im sorry to interrupt you. Im going to totally interrupt you.


MCKAY: You realize now, I am definitely going to crank phone call you at one point in the next six months?

GROSS: (Laughter).

MCKAY: Its going to happen.

GROSS: What are you going to do? What are you going to...

MCKAY: Im not going to tell you what Im going to do, but I swear to you, I promise in the next six months you are getting a crank phone call. Youre going to forget, too. Youre going to think, oh, hes just kidding around.

GROSS: Are you threatening me?

MCKAY: It is not a threat. Its a playful warning.

GROSS: OK. If you do that, were going to talk afterwards.

MCKAY: OK, all right.

GROSS: All right? OK.

MCKAY: Its coming.

GROSS: OK, OK. So one more question - has making The Big Short, about the financial collapse of 2008 and Wall Streets role in that, has that changed your relationship with your stockbroker?

MCKAY: (Laughter) My financial advisor loved the movie. He really loved. I have a cousin who is in private equities, too, and I had a little conversation with him before I saw it. I just go, you know, this movie is not targeting bankers. Banking is good. We actually need banking. But banking that overreaches or banking that has corruption is not good and can do a lot of destruction. And right now banking just has way too much power. So we really went out of our way with the movie never to point the finger at any one individual. We really believe its a systemic issue. So, so far all the banking and finance people in my life have really enjoyed the movie. But, who knows, I could be talking to you in two months from now and Ill have a black eye after someones punched me, so well see.

GROSS: I was thinking you could talk to your financial analyst or manager or whatever their title is on a higher level than you ever could before.

MCKAY: Oh, well, actually thats funny. I mean, as far as talking to my financial advisor, I have annoyed the crap out of him several times. I have gone and talked to these real people, these geniuses, and theyve told me things. And I go back to my guy and I just go, Matt, youre never going to believe it. Theres a, you know, theres a bubble in this and we have to short this. And always its the same thing. He takes a two-second pause and he just goes, relax. God bless him. Hes got the patience of Job. But - and thank god he doesnt always listen to me.

GROSS: Adam McKay, its been great to talk with you again. Thank you so much. And I wish you a happy holidays and a wonderful 2016.

MCKAY: Terry, always a pleasure. Happy holidays to you, as well, and much love to my hometown of Philadelphia.

GROSS: Adam McKay wrote and directed the new film The Big Short. And while were on the subject of movies, I want to let you know that tomorrow our film critic David Edelstein will talk with us about his 10 Best list. And our TV critic David Bianculli will be here with his top 10 and a look at some of the trends that are transforming television. After we take a short break, Ken Tucker will review the new album thats a sequel to the album critic Robert Cristgau called the greatest folk album of the rock era. This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.