Lehman Collapses Again on Small Screen

Richard Fuld, the man vilified for the collapse of Lehman Brothers nearly a year ago, has a story to tell but recently told a reporter no one wants to hear it.

"The facts are out there," the former Lehman CEO told a reporter for Reuters who tracked him down at his country home in Ketchum, Idaho, last Friday. "Nobody wants to hear it, especially not from me."

Maybe people will tune in tomorrow night instead, when BBC Two in the UK airs its docudrama, "The Last Days of Lehman Brothers," about Fuld's final days at the helm of the banking giant.

A British production featuring American actors Corey Johnson ("United 93") as Fuld and James Cromwell ("LA Confidential") as former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, "Last Days" is a fictionalized account of the weekend leading up to Lehman's collapse on Sept. 15, 2008.

The filmmakers try to stick close to the facts -- BBC Two did extensive research, interviewing many of the key players involved in that weekend -- but also took some dramatic license.

"A bunch of white guys sitting around in suits talking about money isn't very interesting, said Craig Warner, the screenwriter of the one-hour drama, told ABCNews.com. "I tried to make it fun and comprehensible. All I had to do was imagine that my brother would be watching. He has a very short attention span and likes things to be quick and amusing."

As part of his research to play the role of Fuld, Johnson said he watched YouTube videos of Fuld testifying before Congress.

Richard Fuld and actor Corey Johnson who plays the former Lehman Brothers chairman.

"He appeared disparaging and dismissive -- if he could have spit on people, he would have," Johnson told ABCNews.com. "But when I looked at him through a prism, he didn't seem like someone just being disparaging. He was driven, and he was trying to drive people around him to go higher and do better."

A reviewer for Bloomberg News called Johnson's portrayal of Fuld at turns "believable and buffoonish." Johnson as Fuld "hyperventilates in his shirtsleeves, swears at staff, pines for spare ribs" and punches a toy gorilla when times get rough. Fuld was nicknamed "gorilla" because of his intimidating business style.

Johnson said he believed Fuld had reached the "last extreme" in trying to save his company. "He loved this company beyond measure," he said. "The last thing he wanted was for it to go under. I think it's going to bother him till he dies that he couldn't do more to help the people at Lehman."

Fuld was unavailable to comment for this story. ABCNews.com was unable to reach Paulson for comment.

Warner saw Fuld as a tragic figure.

"He was a man who was probably doing what anyone else would be doing in his shoes, morally speaking," Warner said. "He was probably acting within the law, and probably doing it especially well. He was incredibly brilliant."

"What happened was a sort of natural disaster and he was in the eye of the storm," Warner continued. "His bank was brought down in the eye of the storm."

In the film, we watch as Fuld scrambles to hold onto the bank where he reigned for 14 years, courting a sale to Bank of America, then holding out for Barclays, only to have the British government refuse the acquisition and the American government refuse to bail out Lehman. In the end, Fuld was forced to file the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and actor James Cromwell who plays him in the BBC2 drama.

The antagonist to Fuld would have to be Paulson, played by Cromwell, who depicts the former Treasury secretary, according to Bloomberg, as a "strait-laced tough guy."

"There's no public money for the bailout of Lehman Brothers," Cromwell says in the film.

"We see that Paulson is a man who is very powerful and very intelligent and has to stand at the helm and make those decisions," Warner said.

Johnson said one of the film's pivotal scenes is between Fuld and Paulson during a late-night phone call. "They're talking around stuff," Johnson said. "Finally Fuld says, "What would you do if you were me?' It's like a man talking to his father. It's agony."

Cromwell, who had no trouble sharing his dislike of Paulson with a BBC interviewer, said he nonetheless played the role with "relish."

"It's rather like Michael Douglas doing Gordon Gecko in 'Wall Street,'" he told the interviewer. "All these guys are the top of the line, but when push comes to shove [Paulson] has the power to come in and make or save their asses. By withdrawing the carrot and saying: 'You take care of it,' he gets to watch them revert to type and fulfill the agenda that he knows will ultimately lead to the result [that he wants]."

The result, according to Lawrence McDonald, a former Lehman vice president and author of a best-selling book about the bank's collapse, "A Colossal Failure of Common Sense," was Congress passed the TARP legislation to bail out other banks.

"It would never have been passed if Lehman hadn't failed," he told ABCNews.com. "The government put Lehman's head under water and watched for bubbles."

McDonald added that Fuld was also to blame, because he pushed out all of the people who could have put the brakes on when Lehman was steaming toward the iceberg of ultimate destruction.

That angered Paulson, who as former head of Goldman Sachs, had always been Fuld's nemesis. "Tensions between Paulson and Fuld are factual and correct," said McDonald. "They didn't like each other."

Michael Landes plays Zach, a fictional banker and Richard Fuld's assistant.

For comical relief in the film, Warner created the fictional character of Zach played by American Michael Landes. He's a banker and Fuld's personal gofer and narrates parts of the story to camera.

"I think the voiceover brings an element of humor," Landes told ABCNews.com. "It gives it that little bite that takes it just from being just a straight drama."

Zach's sister also makes a brief cameo as a sub-prime mortgage holder who explains how the whole sub-prime mess brought down Wall Street.

Several British actors, including Alex Jennings who plays Timothy Geithner, then the New York Fed president and now the new Treasury Secretary, round out the cast.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and British actor Alex Jennings who portrays him.

Writer Vicky Ward, who writes about the collapse in her upcoming book, "The Great Mistake: The Fall of Lehman Brothers and the Weekend that Changed the World," said she hopes the film will show another side to Fuld.

"Everyone has made Dick Fuld out to be this aggressive, frightening guy," she told ABCNews.com. "He didn't mind having that image out there because it served him well. But he can be immensely charming. And by the end he was far more bullied than a bully. He sat there at the end rather helplessly."

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