It was really only a matter of time. Michael Lewis’s best-selling (and first… and partly autobiographical) book, 1989′s Liar’s Poker, is finally coming to the big screen. And Lewis will be the one writing its screenplay.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of the author like I am, you’re undoubtedly familiar with his work at some level. He wrote The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which was adapted for the big screen (and directed) by John Lee Hancock. The film which won America’s Sweetheart Sandra Bullock an Oscar largely omitted half of Lewis’s source material, which focused much more heavily on how the game of football has evolved over the years, particularly when it comes to offensive strategy. The story of Ole Miss’s Michael Oher and his unconventional “adoption” by the Tuohy family was not the main focus of Lewis’s book, but it’s the storyline that Hollywood ran with. Which, of course, makes sense.
Similarly, in Lewis’s 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the emphasis is less on Billy Beane’s story and more on the eventual acceptance of sabermetrics not only within the Oakland A’s, but also within the baseball industry as a whole. Yet it would be tough to argue that screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian didn’t take the right approach by zeroing in on the bad-tempered Beane and his nerdy sidekick.
I’m assuming the same “Focus on The People” tactic is going to be used with the adaptation of Lewis’s The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (about the (still ongoing) subprime mortgage crisis), which Paramount is currently developing in conjunction with Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company. I guess Pitt is a Lewis fan as well, huh? Anyway, Love & Other Drugs‘ screenwriter Charles Randolph was supposedly hired for $750k to adapt The Big Short for the silver screen, and there’s a possibility Pitt might end up in the cast on that one, too.
Now Warner Bros. has picked up Liar’s Poker and Lewis is on board to write the script. The author is the first to admit that none of his other screenwriting attempts have been successful to date, so I’m very curious to see how he handles the book that launched his career. Like his other aforementioned works, Liar’s Poker is mostly about the intricacies of a not-so-easy-to-translate subject. Specifically, it’s about the birth of the mortgage-bond market and the rise of the junk-bond market in the ’80s. The “people story” in this one focuses on Lewis’s real-life experience working as a bond salesman at the now-defunct Solomon Brothers straight outta school. So not only is the author adapting his own book for the first time, he’s adapting the only one in which he’s actually a main character. I’ll of course have to give him the benefit of the doubt since he IS one of my writing heroes, after all.
Beyond the question of how Liar’s Poker: The Movie will fare with Lewis controlling the script, there’s the bigger question of, “Does anyone even want to see this film?” It’s not like “financial thrillers” have a history of being hits. Sure, there are a few classics such as Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, but it’s proven tough to win over the masses with these types of films. However, clearly Hollywood has hope. There are several financial thrillers in the works right now, from the upcoming Margin Call (starring Kevin Spacey), to the in-development Arbitrage (Al Pacino), Cities (Clive Owen), The Fear Index (Bourne director Paul Greengrass), and of course The Big Short and now Liar’s Poker.
Are there any other Michael Lewis fans out there? What do you think about the news that Lewis will be adapting Liar’s Poker for the big screen? And most importantly, will the film lead to a resurrection of the term Big Swinging D–k?
Be sure to check out the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job.