CHICAGO — Before University of Chicago professor Richard Thaler won the Nobel in economics Monday, he had a star-turn in another field.
In 2015, Thaler had a cameo alongside pop star Selena Gomez in the film “The Big Short,” about the global financial crisis. In the scene, he explains the “hot hand fallacy,” in which people think whatever’s happening now is going to continue to happen into the future.
"I was approached by U of C grad Adam Davison of "Planet Money" who was serving as a technical advisor to the the movie. My initial reaction was, 'Are you sure you have the right phone number," Thaler told The Chicago Maroon in a 2016 interview.
The film is described as a comedy drama about the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Its director, Adam McKay, inserted cameo appearances by experts to help explain complex financial ideas.
It won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was based in the 2010 book "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine" by Michael Lewis.
Thaler told the Maroon his scene was shot in at a casino in New Orleans. He said he was "lousy at learning lines" so the McKay allowed "me to say whatever I thought was appropriate."
As for Gomez, Thaler said "she (unlike me) was very professional."
"She learned her lines and was very accommodating to her amateur partner," he said in the interview.
It wasn't just economics he taught her. He also taught her about blackjack.
"I had to explain to her that 21 wins. I guess she has not been old enough to gamble," he said.