The Weekend William Hurt Went Snake Hunting With Hank Paulson

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Last night, the cast of HBO's film Too Big to Fail gathered at The Four Seasons after a screening at MoMA. Only about half of the group of A-listers — which included James Woods (Dick Fuld), Dan Hedaya (Barney Frank), Topher Grace (Jim Wilkinson), Ajay Mehta (Vikram Pandit), Tony Shaloub (John Mack), Ed Asner (Warren Buffett), Cynthia Nixon (Michele Davis), Billy Crudup (Tim Geithner), Matthew Modine (John Thain), and Bill Pullman (Jamie Dimon) — had ever met or spoken to the real-life characters they played. Nixon said of Davis, who is her political opposite, "She was just a lovely, lovely person." Of meeting Morgan Stanley CEO Mack, Tony Shaloub said: "It just humanized the whole thing for me, hearing his entire backstory. We share a similar heritage." The two met at his office, which was "very intense" and had "an amazing view that sort of has that feeling of being a Master of the Universe." (Jim Wilkinson, for his part, couldn't believe that he was set to be played by Topher Grace. The actor warned him, "To the world, you’re going to look a whole lot more like the kid from That 70s Show.")

But William Hurt, who enacts the role of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, got up close and personal with his character. "I met him in New York and we get along like gangbusters," he told Intel. "I personally like him very, very much and the longer I knew him, the more I liked him."

The hit it off so famously, Paulson invited Hurt on vacation. "I went down to the island that they own a large part of, an ecology project off the east coast of Georgia to protect the pristine environment for wildlife there," he said. " I spent a few days there with him and his wife in the lodge that they run for people who are interested in that kind of thing. Their life is very modest. They’re modest, highly intelligent people." So modest, in fact, that they trap their own varmints. "We bird-watched and we hunted for snakes," Hurt explained. "We found some, and we talked a lot about September 2008."

Hunting snakes while discussing the bailout of AIG. There's a poetry in that.