Hollywood, Wall Street and New York media converged last night at the premiere of Too Big to Fail, the movie.
Michael Douglas, Brian Williams, and Regis Philbin met Warren Buffett, uber-analyst Meredith Whitney, and CNBC's Becky Quick at the Museum of Modern Art, where HBO's screening took place, and at a swishy after-party at Manhattan's Four Seasons restaurant.
Hank Paulson is indisputably the hero of the film based on Andrew Ross Sorkin's book about the global financial meltdown. The former Treasury Secretary wasn't there last night, but William Hurt, who plays him in the film, hobnobbed through the evening -- and told me that he spent several days with Paulson to prep for the part. Hurt went fishing with Paulson and did some birdwatching as well. What you see in the movie, sure enough, is a full-bodied, very human Paulson who suffered physically and emotionally during the 2008 crisis while he kept the system from total collapse.
Many of the actors got to know, or at least meet, the masters of the universe they portray. Tony Shalhoub, known as Monk on TV, told me that he spent time with former Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO John Mack. The two men found plenty in common, Shalhoub said, since both their fathers immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon -- Shalhoub's to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Mack's to Mooresville, North Carolina.
Matthew Modine, who plays John Thain, told me that he and the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, who sold to Bank of America (BAC) mid-crisis, had planned to get together. But last minute, they mutually decided not to. Fine with Modine, who went with it, portraying the bespectacled Thain with just the right dose of stiffness and selfishness.
Amy Carlson wanted to but couldn't meet Erin Callan, who was Lehman Brothers' CFO and practically disappeared after she got ousted in June of 2008. Carlson learned about Callan, she told me, largely by reading my Fortune profile, "The fall of a Wall Street highflier," last year. Carlson also mentioned that the Lehman (BCS) scenes in Too Big to Fail were shot on the 30th floor of midtown's Citigroup Center. That's interesting trivia since Citigroup (C) CEO Vikram Pandit comes across in the movie as one of the least likable characters among the big bank bosses.
The most revelatory character in Too Big To Fail, as I see it, is Ben Bernanke, the wise Federal Reserve chairman who calmly guides Washington's and Wall Street's honchos to do what is right. Sorkin told me that Paul Giamatti met the Fed boss before playing the role -- and Giamatti, who is consistently great no matter the movie, plays Bernanke beautifully.
As for Buffett, who flew in from Omaha for the screening, he met Ed Asner, who plays him, for the first time last evening. The two hearty, gray-haired men posed for pictures and laughed about their lookalike status. Though one is much beefier and the other is richer. "We're going to remake the movie Twins together," joked the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) chairman. Buffett's on-the-spot review of Too Big to Fail: "Terrific."
The movie premieres on HBO (TWX) next Monday, May 23.
by Patricia Sellers
John Mack interviewed Hank Paulson at New York University's Stern School last evening. The Morgan Stanley (MS) chairman, who recently turned over the CEO reins, told me that he wanted to push some emotional buttons in the former U.S. Treasury Secretary and onetime CEO of Goldman Sachs (GS).
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This was a week of transitions. Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton. A little-known Congresswoman named Kirsten Gillibrand, who beat Caroline Kennedy for Hillary's Senate seat and reminded us that power and privilege don't mix well these days.
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"It started with housing. It will end with housing."
- FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair this afternoon at the Fortune 500 Forum in Washington, D.C. Bair talked about the need for the federal government to deploy some of its billions to help reduce foreclosures. She hit a wall with her recent $24 billion loan-modification proposal (Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who spoke here yesterday, refused to divvy TARP bailout funds for that), but MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 2, 2008 4:41 PM ET
"Only if we have the freedom to fail will we have the freedom to succeed."
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I took a 7 a.m. Acela from New York to Washington, D.C. this morning to meet with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and then attend the Fortune 500 Forum, beginning this afternoon. My train was on time to the minute; Rhee's red-eye from the West Coast was delayed by D.C. fog, so she and I are now due to meet Wednesday. I'll share my thoughts later this week about Rhee, who MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 1, 2008 2:05 PM ET
Now that the government has agreed to rescue Citigroup (C), investors are pondering again a question that never seems to die: Wasn't it a mistake to let Lehman Brothers fail? Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was asked this very question in a Q&A that ran in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, and he replied, "We didn't have an option." He said that Lehman had neither a buyer, as Bear Stearns did in MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 25, 2008 1:47 PM ET
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