Casting 'Flash Boys': Picking the Stars for Michael Lewis' Next Blockbuster

Dan does a little bit of casting for Michael Lewis' most recent book following the release of "The Big Short" in theaters.

Dan DeFrancesco, deputy editor, Sell-Side Technology

Dan does a little bit of casting for Michael Lewis' most recent book following the release of "The Big Short" in theaters.

Michael Lewis is back in the news as yet another one of his books has been made into a movie. "The Big Short," Lewis' 2010 best-selling book that looks at the 2008 financial crisis, is his third tome that has been translated from the printing press to the big screen.

The movie, which had a limited release on Dec. 11, and will expand to a few thousand theaters on Dec. 23, is chock full of A-list stars. Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell all signed on to the film, because no group enjoys chastising Wall Street more than the pious and reverent people of Hollywood.

As Lewis continues to draw favor from those in the movie-making business—the two other movies based on Lewis books, "Moneyball" and "The Blind Side," received eight Oscar nominations and one win (Best Actress, Sandra Bullock)—it seems only natural to assume there is a good chance another one of his books will be made into a movie.

I figured I'd take a look at "Flash Boys," Lewis' most recent book, which looks at high-frequency trading (HFT), and do a little casting of my own.

Brad Katsuyama ─ Steven Yeun

Katsuyama is the protagonist of the story and therefore needs a strong lead. I could go for a big Hollywood name here, but I like the idea of someone that might be considered an underdog in the industry in the same way that Katsuyama's IEX started out as an underdog. I considered Randall Park here, who's probably best known for playing Kim Jong-un in Sony's infamous "The Interview." I love Park in "Veep," but I wanted someone a bit younger and with a broader appeal.

For me, Yeun, of "The Walking Dead" fame, seemed like a great under-the-radar choice. Yes, I understand calling someone who stars on what is currently one of the biggest television shows in the world an underdog might be counterintuitive, but Yeun's success on the small screen hasn't translated to roles in big movie. What better way for him to make that jump than with "Flash Boys"? Forget fighting zombies! We're fighting HFT traders!

Ronan Ryan ─ Colin Farrell

Ryan's character is key to the movie because he needs to bring the comedy. We had the pleasure of having Ryan speak at one of our events and he did not disappoint. The actor that plays Ryan needs to be able to swear and be aggressive one scene while making the audience laugh out loud in the next.

I considered Cillian Murphy ("Inception," "Peaky Blinders"), but since I went with a lesser-known actor for the Katsuyama role I need to get a big star to play what's arguably the second lead. For that reason, I think Farrell is an obvious choice. As a fellow Irishman he'll have no trouble getting the accent down. Also, I'm sure he'll be eager to get the taste of "True Detective 2" out of his mouth (aren't we all, Colin?). Farrell is also sneaky funny (see: "Horrible Bosses").

Sergey Aleynikov ─ Ben Affleck

Aleynikov might be the toughest character to cast in this entire made-up movie I'm creating because he's so complex. On the surface, it seems like he would be the antagonist of the story. The chapter in which Aleynikov is first introduced in "Flash Boys," is entitled "Putting a Face on HFT." But by the end of the book you're meant to feel bad for Aleynikov, realizing that he was just a pawn in the massive arms race that HFT has created. Lewis even ends his book with an excerpt from Aleynikov's memoir!

The audience needs to hate the actor at the beginning, but then find that they're rooting for him at the end. Affleck is the perfect fit. Anyone that's seen "Gone Girl" knows exactly what I'm talking about. I know he's just spent the past year getting all bulked up for "Batman v Superman," but actors love having to transform their bodies. Nothing builds Oscar buzz like emaciating your body for the love of the art, just ask Matthew McConaughey. Also, there is a good chance I could get Affleck to direct as well. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Don Bollerman ─ Russell Crowe

I think it goes without saying that the first three characters outlined will no doubt play a large role in any script written based on "Flash Boys." After that, though, the hierarchy of characters gets very convoluted. For the purpose of this column I'm going to pick Don Bollerman because I find him fascinating. While "Flash Boys" is filled by optimists, Bollerman is a realist. I loved his lack of moral outrage or self-righteousness.

When I think of Bollerman, I think of The Wolf character from "Pulp Fiction." Pragmatic and practical, he's there to get the job done. I went with a controversial pick in Crowe here, but stay with me. If you've ever seen him in "Body of Lies" you know exactly what I'm looking for. Roles like these are perfect for big stars—enough content for them to sink their teeth in and possibly get an Oscar nod, but not big enough where they have to be on set every day.

Food for Thought

  • I'll be taking the next two weeks off for the holidays. Despite the lack of columns, the site will be updated with lots of year-end recaps. Be sure to keep checking back to see all the great content we've compiled for you.
  • As we move into the New Year, I'd love to hear your thoughts on some trends in the market. If you have any topics you'd like to chat about, my inbox is always open. Drop me a line at [email protected]

Like the column? Hate the column? Let me know via email ([email protected]) or Twitter (@dandefrancesco).

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