Michael Burry in The Big Short
Former doctor turned full-time investor Michael Burry interviews a man to be work for his fund. He wants him to investigate all of the hundreds of mortgages that have been bundled together for a mortgage backed security.
Why Michael might be hard to identify with: We all hate hedge fund guys. And he seems rude, because we don’t know what’s going on with him.
- He listens to metal music on headphones, plays drumsticks on his desk, puts his bare feet on his desk.
- Burry has a literal hole in his life: “I’ve always been more comfortable alone. Maybe it’s because of my glass eye. I lost the eye to a childhood illness, separates me from people.” In a flashback, we see the eye pop out in a football game, disgusting his teammates and the cheerleaders. In the book, he eventually realizes that a lot of the isolation (and lack of eye contact) he attributes to his glass eye is actually the result of undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. The movie oddly doesn’t have that realization, but Bale’s performance makes it pretty clear.
- The narrator introduces him by saying “While the whole world was having a big old party, a few outsiders and weirdos saw what no one else could. …These outsiders saw the giant lie at the heart of the economy and they saw it by doing something the rest of the suckers never thought to do. They looked.” In this case it’s literally true that in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!
- His name plate says, “Michael Burry, M.D.” so we can see that he might have a more diagnostic eye than most in finance.
Mark Baum in The Big Short
A man in a suit is making a painful admission to a therapy group about his treatment of his son, when suddenly investor Mark Baum bursts into the group, interrupting him, saying “Sorry I’m late, no cabs, ugh, so get this, I met with this retail banker yesterday…” and he launches into a tale about the banker abusing his customers. As he’s saying this, we see the hurt on the face of the man whose story he interrupted. The therapist finally interrupts him, “We’ve talked about this numerous times, you can’t come in late and highjack the entire session.” What do you mean, I didn’t highjack the meeting, did I highjack this session?” One guy says, “Yeah.” Baum gives him a withering look and says, “What do you do?” “I’m in commodities.” Baum snorts, “Well good luck with that.” The therapist says “Mark, I know you’ve suffered a terrible loss. Maybe you want to talk about that?” “I don’t talk about that.” Phone buzzes. “Hold on, hold on, I have to take this, sorry. [To phone] I don’t care, Porter, this guy’s whole business is based on ripping people off, how long can that last?” He leaves and shouts, “Bye, everybody!”
Why Mark might be hard to identify with: On the one hand, he’s a cocky wall street asshole, and we know from the trailer he’s going to become a billionaire betting against the economy, but in his own mind, he’s clearly a crusader for the little guy.
- Slipping between past and present tense is terrible in prose, but good in dialogue, because it sounds unwritten “And you know what he did, he laughed. He just walks out of the lunch, doesn’t say a word.”
- We don’t know what’s wrong yet, but we see he’s in group therapy and his therapist says “Mark, I know you’ve suffered a terrible loss. Maybe you want to talk about that?” to which he responds, “I don’t talk about that.” Soon we’ll see a flashback to his brother jumping off a roof while still on a cell phone call with Mark.
- He’s clearly a righteous crusader against bad corporations (His wife later says, “You’re running around like you have to right every wrong in the world”) and he certainly knows how to dominate a room.