The Big Short: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell | based on the book 'The Big Short' by Michael Lewis

Christian Bale
Born: January 30, 1974
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK
Michael Burry
Born: June 19, 1971
Birthplace: New York, USA
Ryan Gosling
Born: November 12, 1980
London, Ontario, Canada
Greg Lippmann
Born: January 31, 1969
Steve Carell
Born: August 16, 1962
Concord, Massachusetts, USA
Steve Eisman
Marisa Tomei
Born: December 4, 1964
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Valerie Feigen
Born: November 19, 1963
Birthplace: New York, USA
Finn Wittrock
Born: October 28, 1984
Lenox, Massachusetts, USA
Jamie Mai
John Magaro
Born: February 16, 1983
Akron, Ohio, USA
Charles Ledley
Born: July 22, 1973
Jeremy Strong
Born: December 25, 1978
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Vincent "Vinny" Daniel
Rafe Spall
Born: March 10, 1983
East Dulwich, London, England, UK
Danny Moses
Hamish Linklater
Born: July 7, 1976
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA
Atwood "Porter" Collins
Born: June 27, 1975
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Byron Mann
Born: August 13, 1967
Hong Kong
Wing Chau
Ironically, I'm in this book 'The Big Short,' but I'm not a big short. I don't go out looking for good shorts. I'm spending my time looking for good longs. I have shorted mortgages because I had to. Every bit of logic I had led me to this trade, and I had to do it. ...I saw what was coming and I thought it would affect everything. -Michael Burry, Bloomberg Risk Takers

Questioning the Story:

Did the real Michael Burry walk around the office with no shoes on?

Yes. According to director Adam McKay, this is true. "He's a guy who listens to speed metal," says McKay, "most of the time doesn't wear shoes. He would go weeks wearing the same clothes." -Meet Michael Burry Featurette

The real Dr. Michael Burry (left) had a habit of walking around the office in shorts and no shoes, just like Christian Bale's character in The Big Short movie (right).

Is the real Michael Burry an introvert like Christian Bale's character in the movie?

Yes. The true story behind The Big Short reveals that the real Michael Burry has always been an introvert. When his own son was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, Burry began to believe that he too suffered from a mild form of the autism-related condition. -The Big Short book

Did the real Michael Burry lose an eye?

Yes. The real Michael Burry lost an eye to cancer when he was two years old. "You're never not aware that you have an artificial eye," says Burry. "You can feel it. You notice when you're looking at somebody and they keep moving to the side because your eyes are not lining up. You notice when the kids tease you 'cause you're cross-eyed, or that sort of thing." -Bloomberg Risk Takers

How old was Michael Burry when he learned about the stock market?

During our research into The Big Short true story, we learned that Michael Burry's introduction to the stock market began in approximately the second grade. He looked into American Motors, the company that made the real-life version of the toy jeep that accompanied his little plastic army men. By high school, Burry was investing real money in the stock market. -Bloomberg Risk Takers

Was Michael Burry really a doctor?

In The Big Short movie, Christian Bale's character emphasizes the fact that he is not only a hedge fund manager, but also a doctor. The true story behind The Big Short confirms that the real Michael Burry was indeed a doctor. In 1990, he went to medical school at Vanderbilt and then began his residency at Stanford. His interest in investing soon began to take over, consuming his nights and spare time. He started a blog about it and put what little money he had into undervalued stocks. Consequently, his devotion to medicine began to suffer. He once fell asleep standing up while observing a complicated surgery, collapsing into the patient's oxygen tent. He was thrown out of the operating room by the surgeon, who was furious. Burry eventually left his residency at the age of 29. -Bloomberg Risk Takers

Can the real Michael Burry explain in layman's terms how he made so much money off the housing crisis?

Read The Big Short by Michael Lewis to learn more about the housing market crisis and how individuals like Michael Burry capitalized on it.
In an April 2010 op-ed piece in The New York Times, Michael Burry wrote about how he was able to see the housing market crisis coming and explained what he did to capitalize on the collapse. "I purchased credit default swaps — a type of insurance — on billions of dollars worth of both subprime mortgage-backed securities and the bonds of many of the financial companies that would be devastated when the real estate bubble burst. As the value of the bonds fell, the value of the credit default swaps would rise."

Were the real-life subjects involved in the making of the movie?

Of the four main characters, Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is the only character whose name wasn't changed for the movie. The real Michael Burry spent a total of roughly 12 hours talking with actor Christian Bale. This included phone calls and visiting the set several times. "Christian is an incredibly professional actor," Burry said. "I certainly can't be unhappy with his portrayal or effort he put in" ( Bale called Burry a fascinating individual and says that he became very fond of him. As for the others, Steve Carell met with Steve Eisman over breakfast after reading up on him. It does not appear that Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt were in touch with Greg Lippmann and Ben Hockett, the real-life counterparts to their Big Short characters (The Hollywood Reporter).

Does The Big Short paint an accurate picture of the 2007 financial crisis?

No. At best it paints an incomplete picture of the mortgage bubble/crisis. According to Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal, the movie puts too much of the blame on Wall Street corruption, while failing to examine the less severe but more compelling causes for the bubble. While choosing to merely criminalize the bankers, it oversimplifies what actually happened. The movie also never answers the question as to how the mortgage bubble formed.

Michael Burry Interview & Related "Big Short" Videos

Further explore the true story behind The Big Short movie by watching the Michael Burry interview below.

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