George Clooney plays a TV personality who gets more than he bargained for in the new thriller Money Monster, in theaters May 13. Clooney is Lee Gates, the host of a financial TV show who offers viewers investment advice while also engaging in a fair amount of showboating. Money Monster is one of several recent movies about the crazy world of finance, and more than one of those movies are based on a real person's story (like Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short). That being the case, it would seem logical to speculate that the character played by Money Monster 's Lee Gates is based on a real person. And in fact, many media outlets have determined he might possibly be.
Publications such as Business Insider, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, among others, have all noted the resemblance between Clooney's character and a certain television personality: Jim Cramer of CNBC's Mad Money . Like Gates, Cramer is a high-energy TV host who gives animated explanations about the stock market and provides viewers with financial tips. And, like the fictional show Money Monster, Mad Money is a program which combines finance and entertainment through the use of over-the-top antics (think sound effect buttons, a fish-eye lens, and a lot of shouting and throwing things). Even the shows' names share the same alliteration, drawing a not-so-discreet parallel between the two programs and the respective hosts.
However, no one involved with Money Monster's production has explicitly said that Lee Gates is based on Jim Cramer (Bustle has reached out to Cramer for comment). The film's screenplay was a collaborative effort between Jamie Linden, Jim Kouf and Alan Di Fiore, and it is notable that all of these men typically write fictional scripts (such as Dear John, Grimm, National Treasure, and many more). Now, that doesn't abolish the possibility that the writers pulled from real-life sources to create the main character of Money Monster. But since none of them have commented on the inspiration for Lee Gates, it can't be said 100% for certain that he is based on a specific person as opposed to a general archetype.
Besides, since Clooney's character ends up in a very dangerous situation (he is held hostage by a viewer who lost his money due to Gates' advice), it's understandable that filmmakers don't want to draw a direct comparison to a real-life person. Still, director Jodie Foster made a comment that would imply no harm was intended by the depiction of Clooney's character. Foster told Entertainment Weekly, "The film is not a polemic. It’s really about the brotherhood that forms between these two men who thought they were on opposite sides, who hated each other, until they realize they’re both fighting for the same thing.” This speaks to the fact that both Lee and Kyle, the man who takes him hostage, undergo serious transformations over the course of the film — which, really, is far more interesting than what TV hosts may or may not have inspired the movie's main character.
Image: TriStar Pictures