Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reagan the Movie

The Hollywood Reporter has broken news of a new Reagan biopic in the works. This seems to be an insurgent project, lead by Mark Joseph, apparently new to Hollywood, and his built-for-purpose production company, Rawhide Pictures. Joseph saw a gap in the market following the failure of CBS' The Reagans:
Only in Hollywood could you make an insulting, condescending movie about a much-loved historical figure, hire an actor who loathes the man, watch it flop and then somehow conclude that Americans don't want to see a movie about him. I watched Americans line up and wait for 10 hours for the simple privilege of passing by his closed casket. They love this man.
The tone of the film is predictable, considering that Joseph wants it based on Paul Kengor's two books, God and Ronald Reagan and The Crusader. These are highly admiring, and engaging, portraits of Reagan, together presenting his life as a determined battle against Communism, grounded on a certain, guiding faith. In each there is a sense of destiny to Reagan's unequivocal Cold War victory, both in Kengor's narrative and in the emphasis on Reagan's own belief in the divinely ordained purpose to his life.

It is significant that the script, written by Jonas McCord, begins with Reagan's assassination attempt, flashing back and forth through his life from that anchoring event. Kengor emphasises in both books Reagan's spiritual understanding of his survival - "I now know that whatever days I have left belong to Him" - and aligns it with his assault on and victory over Communism. "His sense of divine purpose", shared by religous figures he spoke with after the shooting, "now reinforced and amplified his Cold War purpose". Kengor offers important biographical analysis, echoing and expanding on other biographers' observations, but throughout his work there is an implicit invitation to share Reagan's beliefs. There is a narrative inevitablity, a fondness for moments of poignancy and portent, and above all, a conviction in the righteousness of Reagan's life and achievements. These characteristics could translate well to film. If Reagan, the movie, is made in these terms, it could well be a Christian parable of America in the 20th Century, an assertion of destiny, exceptionalism and faith. And could thus be a very successful film, and an interesting one to 2012 audiences.

My hopes, anyway, of a movie based on Dutch, appear to have been dashed.