Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas mix the serious and the absurd in ‘The Laundromat’


Directed by Steven Soderbergh, “The Laundromat” is an adaptation of the book “Secrecy World” by Jake Bernstein, from a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns. The movie turns the story of the Panama Papers, which revealed an international network of money laundering among the world’s wealthiest people, into equal parts economic primer and absurdist farce, with a sense of outraged disbelief that much of what occurred was perfectly legal, the system working as it was designed to do.

Meryl Streep stars as Ellen Martin, a woman whose husband dies in a tour boat accident and who finds herself navigating a complex series of shell companies as she tries to find someone, anyone, to take responsibility for what happened. Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas play Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, respectively, the two lawyers whose firm is at the center of an international scandal when their secret information was exposed in a massive data breach.

Streep, Oldman and Banderas stopped by The Times’ studio at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss making a fun movie about of a topic that is for many people, quite abstract.


“When I first read the script — I don’t mean this in a pejorative way, I mean this in the best way — it was like a little comic book leading me through the understanding of a very thick, opaque, difficult subject,” said Streep.

“I still have a tenuous understanding of it. That’s the way the fellas arrange it, so that it is difficult for people to ferret out the truth,” Streep said. “When I first read it, I was so grateful to Steven for making this clear, this worldwide net of collusive activity by the 1 percent, clear how it robs the rest of the world and contributes to inequity.”

Oldman added, “You expect it to be dry, and a very academic telling of it. Not that you expect it, because it’s Soderbergh, but you wonder how is he going to navigate this particular subject ... It had that tone of like ‘Dr. Strangelove’ where you take something deadly serious and make it ever so slightly absurd.”

“I think the first thing when I read the script, I Googled ‘Panama Papers’ and I remember after being there for a couple of hours I was more confused than I was before I opened up those pages,” said Banderas. “Somehow Steven managed to expose this thing in an understandable manner, and at the same time to laugh about it.”