Egged on by hedge funds, Oliver Stone turns on Goldman Sachs
Sep 16th 2010 | New York - The Economist
Dinner jackets are for wimps
TWENTY-THREE years after he first championed greed, Gordon Gekko is back. Michael Douglas reprises his role as the slick-haired financial barbarian in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, due for release on September 24th.
Half-reformed after prison, Gekko is more anti-hero than villain this time. He is still dazzled by lucre, but also determined to give warning of the dangers of excessive leverage. The real baddies are Bretton James and the securities firm he runs, Churchill Schwartz—perhaps the least disguised fictional name ever. Executives at Goldman Sachs are said to be unamused.
James, played by Josh Brolin, is nothing like Goldman’s top brass. He wields phallic cigars, races superbikes and smashes his copy of Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son” on a lamp when fingered for manipulating the share price of a rival firm.
But the script is sprinkled with echoes of Goldman: Churchill Schwartz bets against markets that it makes, including subprime mortgages; its credit-default swaps are bailed out at par; and it has friends at the Treasury. An exposé of the firm, written by Jake Moore, a disillusioned prop trader and the film’s central character, begins: “The first thing you need to know about Churchill Schwartz is that it’s everywhere.” A damning Rolling Stone article on Goldman in 2009 opened with precisely those words, the name apart.
As the financial crisis unfolded, the story was reworked to cast Goldman in a more nefarious light. In the original version, the villain was a hedge-fund manager. But script advisers from the financial world persuaded Mr Stone that an investment banker would be more realistic, since it was banks and securities firms, not “alternative” money managers, that had blown up the system.
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