Before anyone complains about Laura Dern’s portrayal of then-Secretary of State of Florida Katherine Harris in HBO’s movie “Recount” (for which I was one of many journalists to serve as a consultant), they need to ask themselves this question: If director Jay Roach, producer Paula Weinstein, writer Danny Strong and the execs at HBO had included the following scene — which they did not; I just wrote it this morning — what would have been your reaction?
FADE IN: EXTERIOR, FSU’S DOAK CAMPBELL STADIUM, DAY
It’s the big game between the Florida State Seminoles, ranked No. 3 in the country, with a 10-1 record, and the 9-1 University of Florida Gators.
Tallahassee is in the throes of football fever. Though outside the stadium, state GOP chair Al Cardenas and the new insurance commissioner hand out “Sore-Loserman” campaign signs, for the most part today the recount is irrelevant. Eighty-three thousand fans pack the stadium.
In the skybox of FSU president Sandy D’Alemberte, big shots mingle though all are wearing nametags: Gov, Jeb Bush, Florida Supreme Court justices Major Harding and Leander Shaw.
Into this scene bursts KATHERINE HARRIS, with her husband and two bodyguards.
REPORTER: If anyone does not need a name tag, it’s you.
HARRIS: Really? I guess you’re right. I went to the supermarket today and a woman said to me, “You shop?” I said, “Duh, yeah.”
Others in the skybox mingle. Down on the field, the game gets under way. HARRIS starts chatting with another REPORTER.
HARRIS: You know what I dreamed of today? That I would ride into this stadium carrying the FSU flag in one hand and the certification for the election in the other to cheers of all those around me.
Those listening to her conversation cannot believe what she’s saying.
HARRIS: I cannot believe this. I watch Leno and he’s making jokes about me. You know what joke I loved the best is, “If Katherine Harris was a sportscaster of this game, she would call the winner in the third quarter!”
REPORTER: How are you holding up?
HARRIS: (Giggling) What do you think? How do I look?
She looks nice; gray sweater hanging from her trim frame like a queen’s robe. HARRIS looks down on the field.
HARRIS: I love this game. We will have a winner at the end.
And … SCENE.
If that ran in the HBO movie, people might think it was over the top, right? The scene is not in the movie.
I took it from my book on the recount. It happened. Every last word.
Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. In Harris’ case, at least, to paraphrase Stephen Colbert, even many Republicans might agree that reality has a well-known liberal bias.
One last thing about HBO’s “Recount” …
I want to make this clear, since the way some interviews I’ve done about the film have been written maybe make it seem to some as if I’m a sharp critic of the film, which I am not. I liked it a lot.
It is very enjoyable. It comes as close as is probably possible for a movie to come to portraying that crazy time. It’s not history, it’s a movie, but it comes pretty close.
The filmmakers made the editorial decision to have Al Gore lawyer Ron Klain be the focus of the film, which probably made sense given the drama of the Gore-Klain relationship and the fact that the Democrats were the underdogs. That meant that the emotional core of the film makes it, probably, lean a little left. Not intellectually, but emotionally.
That said, Republican lawyers involved in the recount have felt their portrayals were fair, and I agree. And more to the point: It’s a very entertaining movie, and I highly recommend it.