The GameStop short squeeze of 2021 has already inspired several documentaries – including separate miniseries on both Netflix and HBO – and now the saga has been dramatised by Cruella director Craig Gillespie in the new film Dumb Money.


Adapted for the screen by investigative-journalists-turned-screenwriters Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, it chronicles how Reddit user Keith Gill helped inspire hundreds of people to invest in struggling video game retailer GameStop at the height of the Covid pandemic.

In doing so, several of those who had bought stocks became potential millionaires as they took on the hedge funds who had been betting against the business, only for furious traders to bring lawsuits and inquiries after losing roughly $6 billion as a result of the squeeze.

Although the film is a fictionalised version of the story, Schuker Blum, Angelo and Gillespie all explained to that they stayed as close to the truth as possible.

"Our philosophy is we don't want to make up anything that we don't have to," Angelo said during an exclusive interview.

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"Lauren and I have a background as reporters for The Wall Street Journal before transitioning to screenwriting, so we know how to do our research. And we did two years of research on this movie – so pretty much everything you see on screen is grounded in fact."

"It's probably like... the wildest details of the movie are the most true," added Schuker Blum. "But we also wanted this to be a fun, thrilling ride - because the story of this GameStop rally really was insane, and we wanted to make it feel as exciting as it did at the time."

Angelo went on to explain that "facts and figures alone" would not have been enough to convey the journey that the film's characters go on, and that it was also important to get the emotional truth across.

"I mean, it really is just a David and Goliath story," she said. "About a whole bunch of little guys who were justifiably angry and who banded together and did something big – combining their voices to take down one of the big guys."

Meanwhile, Schuker Blum explained how exploring the time period the squeeze happened – specifically the middle of the Covid pandemic – was also key to the film

"We think that the story really wouldn't have happened without Covid," she said. "We were all locked out of our churches and schools and workplaces, and rWallStreetBets on Reddit became a community for so many people and is part of why the story even happened."

For his part, Gillespie reiterated that one of the reasons he and the writers were determined to "stay as close to the reality of what was happening" as possible was because they were dealing with real figures who had a lot invested in the story being told properly.

"We had to be very clear about the timeline, what was happening, how it happened," he said. "And there's a lot of people that have a lot invested in the story – like 8 million Reddit users living through that frustration, feeling like the system was rigged. So we wanted to get it right.

"Obviously, there's drama, because when you're behind closed doors, you don't know what's going on. But, again, we tried to speculate from what we do know, how we think that would transpire."

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Paul Dano takes on the lead role of Keith Gill in the film, a financial analyst and frequent poster on the aforementioned subreddit who also regularly posted on YouTube and Twitter under the name Roaring Kitty.

Gill himself made millions during the squeeze and was seen as a driving force behind the movement, and was later required to testify in court during an investigation into whether he broke any rules by encouraging others to buy the stock.

"Keith is the most incredible person, he is brilliant and singular and hilarious," Angelo said. "And he's a person of like a profound, strong sense of values."

Although Gill himself was not heavily involved in the production – Angelo explains that he is "an incredibly private person" – both writers spoke to his family while they were working on the script.

Meanwhile, Dano had the benefit of a huge number of recordings that Gill had posted online, which he studied in detail while he was preparing for the role.

"He had a wealth of online postings of Keith Gill, and those postings would be seven hours every week," Gillespie explained. "And Paul really went through it all and listened to everything he could get a hold of – and would have the headphones on to get the cadence.

"He was his own sort of proofreader as we were shooting. There'd be moments where he's like, 'I think he said it like this,' and he tried to really keep the veracity of how things were said and be really specific. And actually, the opening, it's all from an actual clip when he first started posting.

"But also, with Paul, we really got to dig in. Every Sunday, we would get together and talk about the character and the stakes involved and what was going on. And then we'd call Rebecca and Lauren and be like, 'Okay, I want to see where he goes when he tells his parents he's up 22 million and he still hasn't sold.'

"I'd seen a shot on the Daily Mail where you saw the real Keith Gill waving, right around the time he got subpoenaed, and I was like, 'I want to know what's going on when he walks inside.' So we sat together and figured out these scenes and then Rebecca and Lauren turned them around so quickly."

Pete Davidson as Kevin Gill and Paul Dano as Keith Gill in Dumb Money sitting on a bench, talking
Pete Davidson as Kevin Gill and Paul Dano as Keith Gill in Dumb Money. Sony

Although not every character in the film is based directly on a real person, a lot of research went into crafting people who were representative of those involved in the movement. For example, Jennifer Campbell, a character played by America Ferrera, is a composite based on a number of different people.

"We did do a lot of firsthand research, we talked to many, many people who bought GameStop, or were on r/WallStreetBets, and we were very struck by the diversity of people in this movement," Schuker Blum explained.

"I mean, there were young people in college, high schoolers, truck drivers, mothers of three – it really spanned every kind of person who all kind of came together with this feeling of 'this system is rigged'... and wanted to make their voices heard – and this stock became a way for them to make themselves heard and seen."

"The Gamestop story is an incredible story and a difficult one to get our arms around because it pulled in so many different people," added Angelo. "We did our best to represent a good array of the experiences socioeconomically, racially, in terms of age, and also when they bought in, why they bought in and if they sold, why they sold.

"And to us getting to the heart of what people were feeling and what they were living in during that very scary, dark, isolating moment of the pandemic, what drove them to maybe buy a stock when they've never bought a stock before or figure out what a call option is.

"So we did a tremendous amount of research about firsthand accounts of GameStop employees speaking to all of these people, and then doing our best to create a balanced ensemble that gives a good representation of this movement."

Dumb Money is showing in UK cinemas from Friday 22nd September. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on tonight.


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