What Happened To Mark's Brother In 'The Big Short'? The Real Story Is Even More Tragic Than The Movie

The film The Big Short depicts what went on behind the scenes of the 2008 financial crisis by showcasing the men who predicted what was going to happen — and made a fortune in doing so. One such character is Mark Baum, played by Steve Carrell, who suffers a bit more than the other characters. That's because in addition to dealing with the impending collapse of the nation's economy, Baum also struggles with his brother's recent suicide. But since the film never gets into the tragic details of incident, what happened to Mark Baum's brother?

First of all, with the exception of Dr. Michael Burry, who is portrayed by Christian Bale in the film, most of The Big Short 's characters are inspired by their real life counterparts, rather than direct depictions of them. This is the case with Baum, who is actually based on a man named Steve Eisman. Like Baum, Eisman is a hedge fund manager who profited greatly by betting against subprime mortgages. And like Baum, Eisman was dealing with a devastating family tragedy while doing so. However, unlike Baum, Eisman did not have a brother who killed himself. But there is a reason why this detail was included in the film, and the real story is even more tragic.

The family demise that troubled Eisman was the death of his own son. According to Michael Lewis' book, Eisman's wife Valerie had just recently given birth to the child, Max, and she was suffering from the flu. They had a night nurse in their employ, and one night the nurse accidentally rolled on top of Max while she was sleeping and subsequently smothered him to death. The awful accident would have a tremendous effect on Eisman, and likely still does. But why did the film, which sticks so closely to the truth in other areas, change the facts when it came to this event?

The movie did not include the death of the son because the Eisman family requested that they not do so. It would have been too painful for them to relive what was likely the worst moment of their lives, and to see it forever preserved in a Hollywood movie. So they asked director Adam McKay to omit it from the film, and he obliged out of respect for the family. McKay came up with the idea of the brother's suicide to take its place as the tragic event that alters Baum (Eisman), and the family gave the plan their stamp of approval.

Oftentimes, movies based on true stories will altar events to make them more dramatic. But in The Big Short, the truth was made less dramatic and less tragic, out of respect for the emotions of the real people involved. So bravo Adam McKay and The Big Short for showing some class while still depicting the truth when it comes to the movie's central plot.

Images: Paramount Pictures