Is Jerry and Marge Go Large a true story? Is Bryan Cranston’s Jerry Selbee real in new Paramount Plus film?

On the surface, it has all the makings of a gritty crime thriller - but did deeper and you’ll find a story with heart

The latest film lighting up streaming services is Jerry & Marge Go Large.

It tells the story of a retired couple who discover a loophole in a local lottery game, and exploit it for large cash sums.

But far from a gritty, true-crime tale of fraud, the film - which stars Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening - is actually a feel-good story of community and mathematical savvy.

So is it a true story? What is the real life inspiration behind Jerry & Marge Go Large?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is Jerry & Marge Go Large about?

Jerry and Marge Selbee are a married couple that live in Evart, Michigan.

After Jerry retires as a production line manager after 42 years of service, he one day discovers a way to win the local WinFall lottery on a regular basis.

By buying a large amount of entries, he wins more money than he started with, and Jerry and Marge decide to spend their winnings to help the local community of Evart get back on its feet.

Is it a true story?

Annette Benning and Bryan Cranston star in Jerry & Marge Go Large (Photo: Paramount+)Annette Benning and Bryan Cranston star in Jerry & Marge Go Large (Photo: Paramount+)
Annette Benning and Bryan Cranston star in Jerry & Marge Go Large (Photo: Paramount+)

Yes, Jerry & Marge Go Large is a true story. For the most part.

In 2003, Jerry Selbee had recently retired and settled down with his wife, Marge, in Evart, when he came upon a leaflet for a state lottery game called Winfall in a convenience shop one morning.

Selbee, who holds a mathmatics degree, soon realised that the lottery contained a mathematical flaw that would guarantee him winnings if he bought enough tickets.

Winfall’s jackpot would “roll down” if no one won each week, increasing the prize pool.

This continued until the pot reached $5 million (£4 million), and if no one matched all six numbers on their ticket at that point, the reward would be divided among a few smaller winners who matched a majority of the winning digits.

Jerry spotted an opportunity: according to the rule of averages, roll-down weeks were a sure bet if you purchased enough tickets.

Jerry and Marge began to spend countless hours buying thousands of tickets in the Winfall game and, later, a similar lottery in Massachusetts, after testing out their idea and earning $16,000 (£13,000).

As their winnings started to add up, they formed GS Investment Strategies LLC and invited a few dozen family members and friends to join, redistributing the money to the local community.

As a bonus, while mathematically rigged, the small ball approach of winning little on many tickets was perfectly legal.

The Selbees and their associates had made more than $26 million (£21 million) from the operation by the time the lotteries were shut down in 2012.

Shortly after Jason Fagone’s HuffPost article on the couple was published in 2018, it was announced a film version would be produced.

Three years later in June 2021, it was announced that Paramount+ had greenlit the film, set to be directed by David Frankel and star Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening.

Filming began in July 2021 in Georgia, with Rainn Wilson, Larry Wilmore and Jake McDorman joining the cast.

When can I watch it?

Jerry & Marge Go Large was released on Paramount+ on Friday 17 June.

Paramount+ will launch in the UK on 22 June, so the film will be available to stream for British viewers from that date.

The new Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ competitor will have a massive library ready to stream right away, with hits like the new Scream film, the Halo TV show and the cult series Yellowjackets available at launch.

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