Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter once wrote of JP Morgan Chase executive Jamie Dimon, “For a banker, he’s nice-looking. And he’s got that head of fluffy white, unbankerish hair.”
In the new thriller “Arbitrage,” which opens Sept. 14, Carter pays Dimon another kind of compliment — he plays him, more or less, in the role of a mysterious banker named James Mayfield.
The feature directorial debut of documentarian and writer Nicholas Jarecki, “Arbitrage” follows hedge fund manager Robert Miller (Richard Gere) as he desperately tries to close a business deal and cover up a personal transgression. With Susan Sarandon as his wife, Laetitia Casta his mistress and Brit Marling his daughter and heir apparent at the family business, Gere’s character is juggling a string of lies. Throughout the film, his only hope, it seems, is to broker a deal with the elusive Mayfield.
“I always knew it would be a great cameo part,” said Jarecki. “It’s like the Orson Welles part. They’re talking about him the whole movie. Where’s Mayfield? He walks in, and he’s automatically a big shot.”
While researching his script for “Arbitrage,” Jarecki relied on a series of Vanity Fair articles about the financial downturn that had been collected into a 2010 book that Carter edited called “The Great Hangover.”
In casting the part of Mayfield, “We said, ‘Think big shot, money juggler, banking head, Mr. Big,’” Jarecki said. His producer, Laura Bickford, suggested Carter, with whom she had produced the 2007 political documentary “Chicago 10.”
Carter, 63, has played small parts before in the movies “Alfie” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and produced a number of documentaries in between his other jobs — editing the monthly magazine and owning three Manhattan restaurants.
“Immediately I was into the idea of casting Graydon ‘cause he has such a striking, unique look,” Jarecki said. “He’s got the crazy hair and the cool, fashion-forward glasses. He’s got that old-time look, like you’re going to see a cigarette drooping out of his mouth, and he has a wry cynicism and a bemused outlook.”
During his key scene — a few tense moments opposite Gere at the bargaining table — Carter channeled his old subject, Dimon. He wore one of his own double-breasted suits, styled his own fluffy white hair and delivered his lines slowly and deliberately.
Acting, Carter said, “is a very pleasant break from my day job. You’re talking for a few minutes. It’s not like I’m doing stunts. I think I can manage that.”
In addition to his acting, the editor-restaurateur brings other assets to a film. “I’m 98% sure Graydon’s hosting the premiere after-party at the Monkey Bar,” Jarecki said.