The creative team behind Sony’s David-and-Goliath comedy “Dumb Money” drew parallels between the battle between Reddit investors and Wall Street tycoons over the GameStop stock and the actors and writers strikes that are roiling Hollywood.
“We just watched a film about the system being rigged. It’s rigged on Wall Street, and it’s rigged in Hollywood,” said Lauren Schuker Blum, who co-wrote the screenplay to “Dumb Money” with Rebecca Angelo, at the Toronto Film Festival premiere on Friday night. “We’re proud to be part of a union that’s fighting for transparency.”
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Craig Gillespie directed “Dumb Money,” which chronicles the stranger-than-fiction frenzy between amateur investors and hedge fund billionaires that turned into the infamous GameStop stock saga in January 2021. As the story goes, a group of fiercely loyal ragtag investors on Reddit managed to band together to put a squeeze on Wall Street traders who bet that the video game retailer GameStop would fail.
Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, Shailene Woodley, Sebastian Stan and Nick Offerman lead the starry ensemble, but none were in attendance because of the dual labor strikes that have left screenwriters and actors on the picket lines. Most actors aren’t at this year’s festival — with the exception of some who were granted waivers by the Screen Actors Guild to do publicity — which means fewer red carpets and promotional opportunities for films that rely on buzz for awards consideration or box office attention.
“We’re here in our capacity as executive producers,” Schuker Blum added. “We are proud to stand alongside all the writers and actors on strike.”
In the case of the world premiere of “Dumb Money,” the absense of major star power meant that dozens of seats throughout the orchestra, mezzanine and balcony were left empty in the sprawling Roy Thomson Hall. Those at the premiere were enthusiastic about the film, which — in true Gillespie fashion — is chock full of catchy bops like Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” Cardi B’s “WAP,” “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” and “Seven Nation Army.”
Gillespie praised the stars who weren’t able to be at the premiere, saying “I learned very early on that if you don’t have great actors, you’re not going to fix it in the edit.”
He told the audience he cast Dano as Keith Gill, the patron saint of the Reddit group known as Wall Street Bets, after he saw the actor in “Swiss Army Man,” a ribald comedy about a farting corpse. “I hadn’t worked with Paul Dano before,” Gillespie said, “but I’ve always admired his work. He has such range.”
Of Rogen, who plays real-life hedge fund owner Gabe Plotkin, Gillespie added, “Seth is such a versatile actor. Getting him to do something against type is exciting.”
Schuker Blum and Angelo, who are both former journalists and alumni of “Orange Is the New Black,” said they spent hours pouring over Reddit and TikTok and interviewed the retail investors who put their own money on the line during the short squeeze scandal.
“A lot of movies about finance take a top-down approach,” Schuker Blum said. With “Dumb Money,” she added, “it was important to understand the regular people.”
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