Latino actor guns for people’s votes in ‘Our Brand is Crisis’

In Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Our Brand is Crisis,” front and center of the election chaos stands presidential candidate and veteran politico Castillo, who sees his consultants (led by Sandra Bullock’s Jane Bodine) as a necessary evil, and whose mix of charm, pride and privilege is deftly captured by Portuguese actor Joaquim de Almeida (“Fast Five”).

The actor nearly didn’t make the “Our Brand is Crisis” shoot because of an ill-timed gym injury shortly before production, but instead opted to use the situation to his advantage. “Castillo is not an easy guy, not a smiling, happy guy. He has issues. He’s impatient. So I used my own discomfort for the character,” he says.

“He’s a man with money and power,” de Almeida continues. “Castillo is not used to being told what to do, especially by a woman, but these are experts who are well-paid and have run successful campaigns in other countries so he’s willing to hear them out. Then there’s a turning point when he sees the results of Jane’s work, and even if she has a tough way of explaining things and confronts him with the truth, and even if he has a hard time accepting that, he can’t argue with the results.”

Jane sees immediately who Castillo is. Perhaps it’s because these two personalities, often vocally at odds, are oddly simpatico in their single-minded pursuit of the prize.

“Joaquim plays Castillo brilliantly like a person who has once been president but is no longer the president, and is trying to get his groove back,” notes director David Gordon Green. “In that respect, he is similar to Jane in not wanting to step down from the throne and wanting to get back into control. But is he looking out for the best interests of the country, or just addressing his own ego?”

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“We auditioned many actors and when Joaquim read we all looked at each other and said, ‘That’s the guy,’” recalls producer Grant Heslov. “He really captures that toughness and machismo and Castillo’s sense of entitlement, while alluding to aspects of this man we may never know.”

Bullock agrees. “There’s great sub-text in his work. He makes Castillo someone both endearing and repulsive. He gives the role an element of power and depth, and it’s clear that he hasn’t been an angel.”

Coincidentally, this film marks the second time that de Almeida has portrayed a Bolivian president. The first was in “Che,” when he appeared as real-life President Barrientos.

In “Our Brand is Crisis,” a Bolivian presidential candidate failing badly in the polls enlists the firepower of an elite American management team, led by the deeply damaged but still brilliant strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine. In self-imposed retirement following a scandal that rocked her to her core, Jane is coaxed back into the game for the chance to beat her professional nemesis, the loathsome Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), now coaching the opposition.

But as Candy zeroes in on every vulnerability – both on and off the campaign trail – Jane is plunged into a personal crisis as intense as the one her team exploits nationally to boost their numbers. “Our Brand is Crisis” reveals the cynical machinations and private battles of world-class political consultants for whom nothing is sacred and winning is all that matters.

Opening across the Philippines on Jan. 13, 2016, “Our Brand is Crisis” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Non-fiction book ‘The Big Short’ now a provocative film

Based on the true story and best-selling book by Michael Lewis (“The Blind Side,” “Moneyball”), Paramount Pictures presents the sardonic comedy “The Big Short” directed by Adam Mckay (“Step Brothers”) and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.

In the film, when four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything.

Five years ago, when director Adam McKay read The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, he became fascinated with a farce of a different kind. Intrigued by the mixture of comedy, drama, and outright tragedy in Michael Lewis’ brilliant behind-the-scenes look at the lead-up to the global economic meltdown, McKay yearned to take a break from absurdist comedies and bring “The Big Short” to the big screen.

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“I started reading the book at around 10:30 at night and thought, ‘I’ll just read 40 pages,'” McKay recalls. “I couldn’t put it down. I ended up reading the whole thing that night and finished at six in the morning. The next day I told my wife about the characters and how the book weaves together all these different storylines and how it’s like a ‘get rich’ story that’s ultimately about the fall of the banking system, corruption and complacency, and how it’s funny and it’s heartbreaking at the same time. And she’s like, ‘You should do it.’ And I said, ‘I’m the guy who did Step Brothers.’ I didn’t even look into it, because I just assumed a Scott Rudin or a Plan B had already bought the rights to this book.”

Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment, had in fact partnered with Paramount Pictures to develop “The Big Short” as a motion picture. Producer Jeremy Kleiner found striking similarities between the author’s approach to baseball and Wall Street within author Michael Lewis’ book Money Ball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

The book that got McKay and Plan B so excited about making a film about the events leading to the banking crisis comes from the mind of master non-fiction storyteller Michael Lewis. After working at a big Wall Street bank himself in the 1980s, Lewis wrote the bestseller Liar’s Poker, a funny and revealing look at the lucrative and deceptive world of bond trading. The author had no plans for a follow-up until the 2008 financial collapse. “I started reading about how big banks like the one I had worked for lost hundreds of billions of dollars trading in the subprime mortgage-bond market,” Lewis recalls. “The banks had become the dumb money at the table and were losing huge amounts … so I wondered, ‘How does that happen?'”

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In search of answers, Lewis met with former investment bankers who’d lost their jobs after the meltdown. “We’d go out for a beer and they’d tell me off the record, ‘The only reason I’m explaining to you why I lost 10 billion dollars on a single trade is that you’re the reason I’m in the business. I read Liar’s Poker and that got me excited to be a Wall Street trader.’ After a few conversations I realized, ‘Jesus Christ, I created this crisis!’ I had a personal stake in these dummies responsible for losing all this money who had been led into the profession by this book I wrote. So then I tried to sort out how these institutions at the heart of capitalism became stupid and did such suicidal things. Banks like Goldman Sachs are filled with extremely bright, well-educated, best-and-brightest types from Harvard, Yale and Princeton.”

But it wasn’t these Ivy League former Masters of the Universe who ended up being the protagonists in Lewis’ book. Instead, he turned his attention to the misfits who defied the prevailing wisdom of banks, government regulators and media pundits and bet everything they had on an unprecedented failure of the American housing market. “I found out about these outsider oddball types on the periphery who figured out just how corrupt the system had become,” he says. “These are the guys that made The Big Short a book and not just a magazine piece. The guys who bet against the banks and made fortunes – those were the characters who interested me.”

Opening across the Philippines in January 2016, “The Big Short” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

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