The best poker players are often the most unpredictable ones.
And Bad Brad in Molly’s Game is that one awful poker player who won that big hand through the game of luck.
Molly’s Game stars Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd in this real life drama about Molly Bloom. Molly Bloom is an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s exclusive high-stakes poker game that resulted her being an FBI target.
LRM had a phone interview with Brian D’Arcy James on his role for Bad Brad. To play the most incompetent poker player, he told us on how he made no preparations on poker whatsoever.
Molly’s Game is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.
Read our interview transcript below:
LRM: Hey, I want to mention that I loved Molly’s Game. It was terrific.
Brian D’Arcy James: I’m glad you enjoyed it,
LRM: But, I really love your guy Bad Brad. I mean that’s a pretty awesome character.
Brian D’Arcy James: [Laughs] It is. It’s a lot of fun playing him.
LRM: So how were you approached to be playing on Bad Brad for Molly’s Game? What did you think about the character when you first heard of him?
Brian D’Arcy James: It was kind of an interesting conundrum in a way, because my instinct is an actor is usually to find out everything there is to know about the subject that you’re dealing with. Obviously, this isn’t the movie that poker is highly a part of the story. So your instinct is to want to figure out- how does one playing poker for the rules. It’s because I’m not a poker player. Then, of course, my character is a guy who’s terrible at poker. I basically had to kind of curb my instincts and not do any research. Just kind of go in blind, as the actor and as the carrot. In which I thought would be helpful for the character. The quip that I usually make is that I didn’t have to do any research, which is more than just a funny line, but it’s actually true.
It was helpful for me, because when you’re sitting at a table and even shooting the movie–everyone at that table knew how to play poker. I did not know how to play poker. There’s kind of an intimidation factor that goes along with justify being there. I thought that was really interesting in terms of the psychology of it all. Of course, winning a huge hand with absolutely no idea as to how you did it. That’s hilarious and heartbreaking. It was really, really fun to play.
LRM: [Chuckles] You do kind of know how to play a little bit of poker, right?
Brian D’Arcy James: No.
LRM: Not at all?
Brian D’Arcy James: [Laughs] I know it’s hard to believe, but I just don’t get it. [Laughs] I don’t have the interest. I think I’ve reduced it to the idea that my brain does not compute numbers and statistics fast enough to be able to stay in it. I can bluff, but there’s no sense bluffing if you don’t have any kind of foundation on which you’re making a bluff. So I just don’t play poker. [Laughs]
LRM: So how did you manage to approach the winning hand if you never really played poker before?
Brian D’Arcy James: Obviously, it’s what’s written and what the story is. I will say that if there were things that happened in the hand. I would try to understand what was happening within the game. I know on what is the flop is. I know some of the basic stuff, but I don’t want to paint a picture here that is a complete lie. In terms of like the internal, the vetting, the protocol and who best when, when you can move money and all that stuff–I don’t know. I don’t get it. I think it intimidates me. But, doing the actual scene. I would purposely try not to understand what I had to do other than the fact that he was willing to put your money in. And here’s what you’re trying to achieve.
There’s a certain sense of, um, kind of glory when you win a situation like that, because that’s why you’re there. You’re there to compete and win. This guy, obviously, had a different memo for being there all altogether. In which is another story, I think is fascinating as well. It really helped the scene for me when I did win to realize–you know, what? I got lucky here and I won one! There’s something really fun about that, especially when it’s in contrast to a player who’s very good and loses to someone like that. It’s great for the story.
LRM: [Laughs[ Actors would actually have built up a camaraderie by playing poker before your actual scenes.
Brian D’Arcy James: The truth is that it did happen between takes. I will play. I would just try to float along. Actually, one time there was an occasion where I did win a big hand without having any idea about what I had in my hand. [Laughs] So it’s art imitating life in between takes Everybody was laughing because it was too perfect in a way, because they looked at my hand and they said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “I don’t know! I’m just trying to play poker.” [Laughs]
LRM: That’s actually pretty funny and very delightful. [Laughs] How does it feel that you being a supporting side character who was very lovable and very funny. Not to mention, a cool nickname throughout the entire movie?
Brian D’Arcy James: [Laughs] Well, it depends on how you look at it. I don’t know if it’s say cool to say, “Hey, Bad Brad.” I find that character very interesting character, because what motivates him obviously as the thing that is his downfall. He is using that money or rather using other people’s money basically to lose at poker in the hopes that he can get more money from these very rich people by them possibly investing in ultimately in a Ponzi scheme. While he may have been likable enough, in terms of the story, his motivation was definitely–let’s say less than legal. [Chuckles] That’s an interesting kind of a subtext or the other half of that character, which I thought was really interesting and how it plays itself out. You only see the kind of surface and what are you doing to keep his quote and unquote business alive. What’s really motivated, it is something a little more nefarious.
LRM: This is based off a true story, but did you know whether your character was completely fabricated or was it based off of a few real characters?
Brian D’Arcy James: No, it’s based on reality. What’s interesting about the whole legal aspect of it, I name the names of the people that were involved. This is what happened in real life. This is what allowed Molly Bloom to have her cake and eat it too. In a sense that she wasn’t going to name names. All she was going to do is corroborate the names that I had used in my defense, in my attempts to send myself in the deposition. So that all happened.
LRM: Did you had a chance to read a Molly’s book for yourself?
Brian D’Arcy James: I did, yes.
LRM: What do you think about the overall true story?
Well, she is a remarkable person. In the sense, on where she started and she was propped into this world. On how she swam, you very capably and then some in the midst of this really interesting subculture, which I knew nothing about. I’d heard of Hollywood, a poker bank and poker games that weren’t in a casino. I knew nothing about it. The politics of that world. The male dominance of that world. The state of that world are fascinating. How she was able to create a livelihood within it and kind of play by her own rules, which I think is a big part of the story. It’s really compelling. I thought that was really interesting.
Just as a file note on this, it was really great to actually meet her. I got to meet her very briefly at the Toronto Film Festival and meet her family. That’s always really interesting when you can see someone’s life who’s been dramatized in a really fun, compelling, great energetic entertaining movie. You see the person and, and you know, you realized that is their story. I think it’s a great character. She’s a pretty interesting person of Molly Bloom.
LRM: What about acting alongside with Jessica Chastain? That must’ve been a delight.
Brian D’Arcy James: It was. It was delightful, because she makes it so. She’s obviously was carrying that movie on her back as Aaron [Sorkin] had said many times,. But, she does it so gracefully as an actor and the person who is just ready to do her work. She’s very serious about getting the job done, but also incredibly kind and inviting to everybody else to stepping onto that set. A person in Jessica’s position on [the production] sets the tone. I was so grateful for the camaraderie that she instantly created not only with me but with everybody that she worked with. It is a real gift in it ultimately makes for a better film. People that are ready to do their job without the added pressure of worrying how it’s going. She is a remarkable person, Jessica, at work and not at work. The things that she’s been doing lately I find it very inspiring. She’s an inspiration really. She’s a really cool, interesting person.
LRM: This is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut. I love the guy, but I’d probably be personally be intimidated by it. So how was he on production?
Brian D’Arcy James: He was great. I had the luxury of mitigated by the fact that I got to meet him some time ago. We had a few chances to meet. That took the air out of that particular fear balloon out of me for a little bit. It’s different when you’re walking onto the set where he directed the movie that he wrote. Your regard for this person is a mile high. He did on what Jessica did. He was able to instantly put me at ease. What I find really is that I respond to with Aaron–is his sense of humor. I think he’s incredibly funny as a person. To me, I just enjoy being with him because he’s always going to say something that reveals something about how he works or about the movie. But, he’s always going to say something really, really funny. In which, I so appreciate. I feel really lucky to have had that time with him, in that capacity for him as being a first time director.
LRM: Excellent. Well let me start wrapping things up with you. Brian, can you talk about some of your future projects that you may actually have?
Brian D’Arcy James: 13 Reasons Why, the second season, is coming out sometime in the summer. There’s more of that coming on Netflix. I just shot a movie called First Man with Damien Chazelle as the director and written by Josh Singer, who I worked with on Spotlight. I’m happy to say I’m working with him again on that. It’s about the moon flight. Ryan Gosling stars in that. That’s a couple of things that are coming.
LRM: Excellent. Hey, I love you’re a father character in 13 Reasons Why.
Brian D’Arcy James: No, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
LRM: Hey, thank you for this conversation. Thank you.
Brian D’Arcy James: My pleasure. Bye.
Molly’s Game is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.
Source: Exclusive to LRM