Can Angelina Jolie explain credit default swaps and securitization to America?

Michael Lewis’ chronicle of the subprime crisis and the hedge fund investors who bet against subprime mortgage debt is being produced by Brad Pitt's Plan B Productions, according to Starling Lawrence, editor in chief at W.W. Norton, who spoke to IDD Magazine Thursday. Pitt’s “production company has bought rights to 'The Big Short,'” said Lawrence. “His production company has taken the option on 'Big Short.'”

The movie studio that is set to bring "The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine" to the big screen is Paramount Pictures Corp., Lawrence said.

According to Lawrence, close to 500,000 copies of Lewis’s book have been shipped to booksellers and other retailers. The nonfiction title has been a bestseller; this week the book about the mortgage crisis was among the top five best sellers tracked by The New York Times.

This would not be Lewis’ first book adapted for the big screen. “The Blind Side,” an Academy-award winning film starring Sandra Bullock, was based on a book by Lewis. Also, Pitt is said to be interested in developing a movie based on Lewis’ “Moneyball,” an examination of how talented professional baseball players are overlooked and mispriced.

Lewis got his start with a best-selling chronicle of Salomon Brothers' mortgage bond desk in the 1980s entitled "Liars' Poker," a title that has over the past two decades become required reading for business students.

 

"The Big Short" has been the topic of conversation on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C. It has explained to the broader public how hedge funds were able to bet against the housing industry in a simple, easy-to-digest fashion. Readers are introduced to Mike Burry and Steve Eisman -hedge fund investors who recognize the rapid increase in sloppy and aggressive mortgage underwriting and then proceed to short mortgage company stocks as well as mortgage securities.

 

In Washington, lawmakers have praised the book during debates about financial regulatory reform. Comments by law makers drawn from the Congressional Record were posted on W.W. Norton's website. “I recommend everyone within the sound of my voice to read [this] book,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, meanwhile said  “it’s really an eye-opener of what was going on at the time that this real estate bubble was created.”

 

Senator Byron Dorgan, D.-North Dakota, meanwhile said “If you’re wondering if there’s importance or an urgency to this issue, read the book The Big Short by Michael Lewis, and then, when you’re finished reading, come back to the floor and say that you support this amendment [on financial reform].”

 

Asked if he was surprised that Hollywood would want to do a film about subprime mortgages and the credit crisis, Lawrence said “there are characters in here. If it was just numbers, it would be crazy, but they made a movie of Wall Street, Gordon Gecko, and company. They are remaking that. So, the theme of greed and untold illicit or ill-gained wealth is a time-tested formula.”

 

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