When Money Monster producers Daniel Dubiecki and Lara Alameddine of The Allegiance Theater set out to cast their tense financial thriller, they had only one person in mind to play the smooth-talking TV host Lee Gates: George Clooney.
Money Monster follows Gates as he’s taken hostage live on air by a viewer (Jack O’Connell), and the actor playing Gates had to play both the arrogant, wise-cracking TV host and the humbled captive trying to solve a crisis.
“This is a testament to George, that he has to find himself being less likable than he normally comes off,” says Dubiecki, who also produced the Clooney-starring Up In The Air. “But we always knew that the character had to earn the audience’s compassion and win you over, and that’s something George owns in spades over almost any other movie star you can think of.”
But once Clooney was locked in, Dubiecki, Alameddine, and director Jodie Foster had to find an actress to play Patty Fenn, Gates’ problem-solving producer. So, they decided to reunite one of Hollywood’s most beloved on-screen duos, putting Clooney and Julia Roberts together for the first time since Ocean’s Twelve in 2004.
“The world has kind of been waiting for another moment for George and Julia to come together on screen,” Dubiecki says.
“No matter how much or how little time together they have, you always want more,” Alameddine adds. “They have this amazing chemistry and unspoken history together, and it was a no brainer to have them together on screen. He’s a brilliant actor, he’s a movie star, and he emanates so much, and you had to cast somebody who can match that. And Julia is a strong woman who holds her own, and they can go toe to toe. There’s not a lot of actors out there, men or women, who can play at that level.”
While casting Clooney and Roberts was important, both Alameddine and Dubiecki say that the intensity and timeliness of the script was their biggest focus, and they both worked with financial advisers to learn everything they could about Wall Street’s modern algorithmic trading system.
“There was something really powerful in the message of it because at the end of the day, this guy comes in because he feels that the system is rigged,” Alameddine says. “I think that’s very much in the climate of today. People are very frustrated with different types of systems, and there was something that — no matter who you are — you can connect to.”
Once the script was set, and they locked in their stars and director, the rest of the project was smooth sailing — with one weather-related hiccup. During the shoot last year, a winter storm shut down much of New York City, and although the crew were safely filming inside, things did get a bit chilly.
“I think on one day, it was like 4 degrees outside,” Dubiecki says. “The heater broke, and the air conditioning was running. It was ridiculous.”
For more on Money Monster, including PEOPLE and EW editorial director Jess Cagle’s exclusive interview with Clooney, Roberts, and Foster, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy it here – and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.