Hollywood Goes Republican? On the Big Screen

HBO to Produce Miniseries on VP Dick Cheney

March 21, 2011, 5:24 PM

March 22, 2011— -- Hollywood may be a bastion of liberal political ideals, but its production houses can't seem to get enough of the hottest conservative figures of the past decade and beyond.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is the subject of a new miniseries under development by HBO based on the Pulitzer-Prize winning book "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency" by Barton Gellman and the Frontline documentary "The Dark Side," an HBO spokesman confirmed Monday after Deadline Hollywood first reported the news.

The Cheney biopic, which would trace his career from the Nixon administration to his controversial role in the George W. Bush White House, will be the second HBO project this year to feature Republican superstars.

The network's feature-length movie "Game Change," based on the book by the same name, showcases the campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin in the race against Barack Obama in 2008.

Actress Julianne Moore has been tapped to play Palin. Other casting decisions have not yet been announced.

The big screen debut for a caricatured Cheney and Palin follows the release of "W.," a 2008 film by Oliver Stone starring Josh Brolin as George W. Bush and Elizabeth Banks as his wife, Laura. Richard Dreyfuss played Cheney. (No word on whether Dreyfuss has been tapped by HBO.)

Even Steven Spielberg has taken on a Republican icon, directing the new film "Lincoln," which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln and is expected for release late next year.

But Hollywood insiders say the recent fixation on Republican subjects should not be confused with unqualified admiration for them, or their politics.

"While Hollywood certainly has its fair share of conservatives, it is actually deceiving to think that the upcoming Dick Cheney miniseries on HBO is in any way a celebration of the Republican Party," said Hollywood blogger James Sims of SofaSnark.com.

"It has always been a bit ironic that Hollywood has bred the likes of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but there are far more Sean Penns and Martin Sheens out there than Sarah Palin supporters," he said, referring to the number of outspoken liberal Democratic stars.

Political Docudramas Take Liberties

Hollywood portrayals of Republican figures have often taken on a critical slant.

The upcoming Cheney miniseries will focus on the former vice president's "single-minded pursuit of enhanced power for the Presidency [that] was unprecedented in the nation's history," the producers told Deadline Hollywood.

And Stone's rendition of Bush was seen in some circles as a politically-motivated and unflattering portrayal of the Republican president, released just months before the 2008 presidential election.

Other political films of the past few years, including "Casino Jack" -- a dramatization of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal involving Republican lawmakers -- and "Frost/Nixon" -- showing a defiant post-resignation Richard Nixon -- emphasized a darker side of Republican affairs.

Meanwhile, Democrats have had their share of the limelight, with Bill Clinton's ties to British Prime Minister Tony Blair celebrated in the HBO miniseries "The Special Relationship" and Lyndon Johnson's gutsy wartime decision-making dramatized in the 2002 HBO movie "Path to War."

Are producers trying to make political statements with these docudramas, and do the messages resonate with the audience?

"Their number one motive is making money, and because these are docudramas, they do take liberties," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

"But the audience is too fractured for these to have any long term political effects," Sabato said. "Viewers know these are docudramas, and they don't take them seriously. I actually discourage people from watching them: they mix up real history with pseudo-history."

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