Simon Baker’s affable, open Patrick Jane on the TV phenom The Mentalist is light years away from the mannered, restrained wizard of Wall Street he plays in the financial thriller Margin Call. Jared Cohen leads a team of self-serving execs to find a way to cover his company’s worthless leverage in the first days of the economic meltdown.
You play a seemingly soulless man caught in one of the worst disasters of our time.
If there is any parallel I can draw in the journey, my character is a device. We follow young Seth, Penn Badgley, and the young analyst played by Zachary Quinto and Kevin Spacey and a little of Demi Moore on emotional trips. Jared is largely a device, like the last scene that I have with Penn.
Here is the young guy that wants to be Gordon Gekko and a hotshot, and he’s definitely a product of that mould. I thought it was important to make a deal with the devil. He’s not going to stand down and show signs of weaknesses in the offices with coworkers but that affected quality is what I was looking at, the protective shell. That’s how they disconnect themselves emotionally.
It’s an interesting view of the crash, seeing not from the victims’ point of view, but from the perpetrators. Are we meant to feel sympathy?
I don’t think we’re meant to feel sympathy but I think that what it does reflect is that they are human and fallible. It’s just too easy to pin an idea of them being soulless, inhuman people. I don’t think we should feel sympathy, but understand that greed really is a part of human nature and it can take over and this is where we see it. Deep down inside Kevin Spacey there is a lot of soul. His humanity sort of wins out, and in my case you can see vulnerability a tiny bit but he never lets it show.
Morality is the core of the film, the idea being that amorality in business works. Writer director J. C. Chandor is the son of a guy that worked his whole career in the finance industry and he’s a pretty folksy kind of a guy. He’s obviously going to impart his own soulful kind of approach to what that world is and his take on it and play with the idea of it being a morality tale. But he doesn’t. At some points it is heavy handed, but there are some grace notes and delicate notes, that are hard to verbalize that just land sometimes. There are certain moments, particularly Paul Bettany’s performance.