One of the centerpiece moments of the movie is a big negotiation scene where the excitable Rogers (played by Taron Egerton) is meeting with the Soviet company ELORG’s higher-ups without realizing all of his competition are in other rooms and working on their own negotiations.
When speaking with Baird, I asked him about that sequence and, to my surprise, he said it was “some of the most boring [scenes] on the page, if I’m going to be honest.”
“It’s reams and reams of dialogue, right? Just about the rights for a computer game! I think maybe I said this last night at the Q&A, which was the overriding thing you’ve got to do is cast your movie right. If you get great actors, it doesn’t matter what they’re saying. If you get great actors being funny, like Toby Jones, or being serious like Oleg Stefan playing Belikov, or being energetic, like Taron [Egerton] is with Henk, it’s all about the performances. That’s what’s making the tension or drama or comedy. You can shoot it in a certain way and you can put in some music and cut it in a certain way, but ultimately it comes down to believing what the actor is saying.”
It seems like made-up movie BS that there were multiple parties in Moscow trying to hammer out this same deal, but when I asked the actual guys on the ground what this was like to experience (and re-experience in the movie), the predominant response is that it was right on the money. ELORG representative Nikolai Belikov was indeed bouncing back and forth between negotiations, trying to hammer out the best deal.
“I knew [Robert] Stein was going to be there, but I didn’t know Kevin Maxwell was going to be there,” Rogers recalled. “And I didn’t know until, mid-week, Mr. Belikov asked me, ‘Why should we choose you instead of Kevin Maxwell?’ And I was like, ‘Holy s***! Kevin Maxwell is here.’ My answer was, ‘Well, I don’t have as much money as Kevin Maxwell does, so I can’t pay you as much up front, but I can give you an honest share of the profits.’ That was the thing. They had done a previous deal about a percentage of a percentage of a percentage, which meant zero, so I said, ‘I will give you 25 cents per unit. No matter how many hands it goes through, you’ll get 25 cents per unit.'”