Boston-born Actor Jeremy Strong Talks The Big Short

'It's a cautionary tale of the fall of an empire.'

Since “collateralized debt obligation” and the intricacies of the real estate market aren’t typical fodder for comedies, it’s pretty amazing that director Adam McKay and company have been able to make an informative yet funny film about the 2007 financial crisis in The Big Short.

It’s a heavy and complicated subject to tackle, but the star-studded cast–which includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carell–seems to capture the humor and emotions of the ensuing events with relative ease. Their powerful performances have already earned the film a number of award nominations, including a Golden Globe nod for best comedy.

Joining the group of A-list stars in The Big Short is Boston-born actor Jeremy Strong. The 36-year-old plays Vinny Daniel, a fiery analyst who is a member of an idealistic hedge fund group run by Carell’s character.

Vinny is a bit of a hothead, so it should be expected that Strong would channel some of his no-nonsense, Boston roots for the role. The actor admits he may have brought a bit of the city to his character “without realizing,” however, his main inspiration came from spending a lot of time with his real-life counterpart.

“I spent a fair amount of time with the man I play, and he’s a colorful, powerful guy and a very strong, vivid personality,” Strong says. “I think Vinny really wanted to expose, and in a sense, punish dishonesty and criminality. He feels really strongly about being an ethical person and that people in those positions of power on Wall Street should behave ethically.”

Based on Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, The Big Short examines the true story of how a band of misfits, including Vinny’s group, were able to predict the crash and profit by betting against the bubble.

While the film is critical of Wall Street’s rampant abuse of power, the focus for Strong was not on the politics, but the people. The actor felt he had a “huge responsibility” to authentically portray his character and left ideas about the bigger picture to McKay.

“You are really just one instrument in the orchestra and Adam is the one who has that sort of macro-perspective,” Strong says. “Our job is to figure out what makes this person tick, and in this case, the character I play had a very strong perspective on all of this, a very innate mistrust of the system and a real contempt for criminality and fraud.”

While the Boston-born star didn’t want to get caught up in the politics surrounding the story, he does believe that the movie will make audiences mad once they see just how deeply corruption and greed played a part in the collapse.

In particular, Strong recalls one moving scene leading up to the crash where Wall Street players are having a “decadent orgy of money and pleasure” in Las Vegas, which is juxtaposed against images of people living in poverty “under a bridge.”

He hopes that, in addition to making people laugh, the film will inspire people to become more informed about these issues.

“Carell talks about it as a horror movie,” Strong says. “It’s very sobering, this movie. It’s a cautionary tale of the fall of an empire. So, I don’t know what the takeaway is except to make people more aware of that.”

‘The Big Short’ hits theaters in Boston on Wednesday, December 23.