* Fictional movie echoes real-life financial scandals
* Writer drew on lives of Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffett
* 'Arbitrage' is tale of good man gone wrong
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES, Sept 14 In the new film drama
"Arbitrage," Richard Gere brings shady Wall Street dealings to
the big screen as a hedge fund titan trying to cover up huge
losses from a risky copper investment.
The scheming recalls real-life scandals and high-flying
bankers who made headlines and brought populist scorn to Wall
Street during the recent financial crisis. While the public may
be hungry to watch the downfall of a greedy banker, Gere's
character in the movie that opens in U.S. theaters on Friday
isn't an all-around bad guy.
Fictional billionaire Robert Miller "is not an evil person,"
insists the 63-year-old star of "Pretty Woman" and "Chicago."
But, Gere admits, the chief executive officer does "spend his
life believing his own hubris" and, along the way, "makes very
Despite Miller's illegal misdeeds and immense wealth,
audiences see a humanness they relate to, Gere said. "I've been
delighted by how many people came up to me and said they felt
bad because they identified with him so much and wanted him to
get out of his problems," the actor told Reuters.
Writer and director Nicholas Jarecki, who grew up in the
world of high finance as the son of two New York commodities
traders, said the character of Miller sprung from the 2008
"Guys were being so vilified at that moment," Jarecki said,
and he wanted to explore how they made decisions within a system
that tempts people with great rewards but bears immense risk. He
describes "Arbitrage" as "the classic tragic tale of a good man
The charming and ever-confident Miller in "Arbitrage" basks
in the spoils of his success - a fancy Manhattan home, beautiful
wife (Susan Sarandon), loving children, young French mistress,
and more money than a person needs.
The picture-perfect life is threatened after Miller loses
$400 million of his client's money through an investment in a
Russian copper mine. Used to always prevailing, he schemes to
hide the losses with phony books and quickly sell his firm
before the fraud comes to light.
Even worse, Miller is covering up another crime that leaves
real blood on his hands, fearing it will threaten the sale of
his company. To outwit a detective on his trail, he needs help
from a young man at the opposite end of the economic ladder.
Miller is so out-of-touch with his accomplice's world that he
has to ask him, "What's an Applebee's?"
When he created the financial-genius side of Miller's
character, Jarecki said he drew on tycoons Warren Buffett,
Richard Branson, and legendary hedge fund managers John Paulson
and James Simons. But the investor closest to Miller, Gere said,
is Jamie Dimon, the once-unimpeachable JP Morgan Chase
chief executive who recently disclosed a $5.8 billion trading
loss at his firm.
Like Dimon, Miller is "someone who is known for always
winning," until one big bet goes wrong.
PLOT RINGS TRUE FOR TRADERS
Jarecki said he aimed to make an entertaining thriller
rather than send any message about Wall Street. But if there
were any lesson to be learned, he had concluded "there is
something in our blood that makes us go for (financial)
bubbles," he said.
"I think that's what this character personifies, this belief
that the sky is the limit, and that it can go on forever,"
Jarecki said. "I think it can't."
"Arbitrage" opens Friday in about 180 U.S. theaters. It also
will be available through video-on-demand the same day, a
strategy used last by distributors Lions Gate and
Roadside Attractions that helped lift financial crimes movie
Jarecki said his story resonated with a group of hedge fund
managers who got an early look at the film in East Hampton, New
York - a wealthy resort popular with the Wall Street crowd. One
of the investors who had lost money on a copper trade told
Jarecki: "Your film has been a re-enactment of my personal
Others viewed it as a cautionary tale of what could go
wrong. "As a group, they said 'This film made me uneasy from
beginning to end,'" Jarecki said. "For me, that was incredibly