So where is “Margin Call” in the awards derby? Roadside Attraction’s surprise hit of the fall season (86 % on Rotten Tomatoes) offers a new indie distribution paradigm as it reached consumers simultaneously via both VOD and theaters ($5 million gross). For now J.C. Chandor’s movie may have to settle for its Gotham Awards nomination for best ensemble cast, New York Film Critic Circle win for best first film, National Board of Review win for best debut director and an Indie Spirit Robert Altman Award and nomination for best first feature.
While Chandor has earned many plaudits for his screenplay (which was not eligible for a WGA Award), the actor out of the film’s splendid ensemble who has the best shot at a supporting Oscar nomination is Kevin Spacey, who has won two Oscars (“American Beauty” and “The Usual Suspects”) and is thus a respected Oscar insider.
In 2003, Spacey took a remarkable career turn, moving to London as artistic director of the Old Vic. He’s now touring the world, from Beijing and Sydney to Brooklyn and Avila, Spain for “The Bridge” project, starring as the hunchback king in his “American Beauty” director Sam Mendes’ production of “Richard III.”
Spacey was the first actor cast in “Margin Call” after producer Zachary Quinto, and helped to harangue the last man on board, Jeremy Irons, at an Old Vic benefit. In fact during Spacey’s Old Vic fundraising efforts, he met many bankers who helped him to understand what made his conflicted “Margin Call” banker behave the way he did. “I understand the angry human need to point fingers,” says Spacey. “‘All you bastards are the reason we’re in the situation we’re in.’ It’s part of reason I wanted to make this; these characters made the decisions they did to survive, to make a living, they’re human. I wanted to unearth something that puts a different perspective on it. It’s not black and white.”
Like many actors these days, Spacey has taken his career into his own hands via his own production company, Trigger Street, run by producer Dana Brunetti. He brought in Ben Mezrich and David Fincher’s Oscar contender “The Social Network,” which won the adapted screenplay Oscar. Spacey was inspired by a Mike Nichols AFI tribute, watching clips of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “Carnal Knowledge,” to keep pursuing that caliber of filmmaking. “We are making movies like that, the kind of movies Nichols would have done, no car crashes, about people.”
Spacey works around his Old Vic duties. Much of the best writing these days is in television, he says, such as HBO’s “Recount.” He’s waiting to see the latest script by Beau Willimon (“Farragut North” became “The Ides of March”) for Netflix’s American remake of the Brit political intrigue “House of Cards,” which moves from Downing Street to the White House. (Oddlly enough, it was inspired by “Richard III.”) Filming of the 26-episode series to be shown via Netflix is scheduled to start in April or May; David Fincher is directing the pilot. Trigger is also developing an upcoming film with Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009.
Meanwhile, for your enjoyment, Worm In Your Apple’s wordless trim of the boardroom stand-off in J. C. Chandor’s “Margin Call”is very clever. Take a handful of great actors, remove all their dialogue during an intensely awkward scene about a pivotal American boardroom moment and hilarity ensues.