‘Dick’ Director in Comedy Watergate, 50 Years After the Scandal – The Hollywood Reporter

The fascination with the mysterious identity of Deep Throat, the Watergate whistleblower, helped fuel the success of the 1976 Oscar-winning film. All the men of the Presidentbut it also led to another, much more unlikely project: 1999 CunningA comedy about two teenage girls who unwittingly find themselves at the center of a scandal.

Cunning focuses on Betsy (Kirsten Dunst) and Arlene (Michelle Williams), a pair of 15-year-old best friends who become President Nixon’s dog walkers and, somehow, become the famous messenger Deep Throat for their Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch). (It was not until 2005, that former FBI deputy director Mark Felt revealed that he had Parcel’anonymous source.)

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the June 17, 1972 break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which resulted in Nixon’s resignation following administration efforts to cover up its involvement, the Director Andrew Fleming – co-writer Cunning script with Sheryl Longin – tell The Hollywood Reporter that he remembers trying to think of a suitable story to comment on what a formative decade has been for himself.

“We kept trying to figure out what the ’70s were like, but it was hard at the time in the early ’90s to really get a feel for the decade,” says Fleming. “And just as a joke, we said, ‘What if they have a Deep Throat?” And we just laughed – it was really just a joke. And then we continued to absorb that, and it never goes away. We just keep finding it interesting and telling people about it. They say, ‘That’s hilarious. Nobody’s going to make that movie.’”

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DICK, from left: Will Ferrell, Bruce McCulloch 1999
Columbia Image / Courtesy Everett Collection

Fleming’s shares rose when he directed the 1996 hit Sleeper starring Neve Campbell HandmadeStart working on a project of your choice. Cunning was his first choice, but he discovered resistance as they progressed on the project around town. “We’ve introduced it everywhere,” he continued. “Everybody thinks it’s hilarious, and then they’ll say, ‘Yeah, but we’d never buy that.'”

Luckily, the last person Fleming was expected to sit with was Mike Medavoy, who worked with the filmmaker on the 1994 indie drama. Play with three people. Medavoy, who Fleming calls “very politically savvy and a proper Liberal Democrat,” is the game to make Cunningno matter how complicated the process.

Fleming recalls that Dunst had impressed him in previous cinematic works including the 1994 film Interview with a Vampire. Ferrell, who became a Saturday night live breakthrough after debuting in 1995 and starring in 1998 One Night at Roxburywanted to play Woodward, and then a key piece of the puzzle was laid out starring Williams, one of The WB’s hot series hosts. Dawson’s Creeklaunched in 1998.

Fleming said: “Michelle and Kirsten did a little session together, and they were both hilarious, lovable and kind. “It took a long time to sell the script and put it together, and then [the film itself] came together very, very quickly because Michelle had to come back Dawson’s Creek. ”

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DICK, from left: Kirsten Dunst, director Andrew Fleming, Michelle Williams, on set, 1999
Columbia Image / Courtesy Everett Collection

One of the team’s biggest challenges was finding the right performer for the lead role, which ultimately went to character actor Dan Hedaya after a suggestion from a cast member. “[Casting Nixon] It was really a struggle, and it was just a hint of genius because he ended up being better than anyone else we’ve ever talked to,” Fleming shared. “And we talked to a lot of movie stars to play that part.”

The director has positive memories from the experience and praises Medavoy for matching his vision against safe choices, although not many people saw the finished product that Sony released on August 4, 1999. . dollars worldwide ($11 million today). “So it’s good and bad. I’m very happy to be making the movie because I love the movie. I really do. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Fleming admits that audiences aren’t people who “don’t want to see political comedies” but that making such films is still worthwhile. He said that Watergate, in a moment as shocking as it happened, felt rife with sarcasm, something he wasn’t sure could be said for the Donald Trump presidency.

“Once we started working on it, it was like a comedy – I mean, the Committee to Re-Elect the President is called CREEP,” he explains. “The tapes are amazing because Nixon is the legacy of one man: a racist, an anti-Semite and a homosexual. But the tapes and the things he says are hilarious at times – and terrifying to others – but all pale in comparison to the bad things that happen to Trump. I don’t know what movie you make about Trump’s presidency. I really don’t. ”

Fleming had heard that his film had been viewed by all the people involved in the scandal who were still alive at the time — “That alone was gratifying,” he said — and remembered that Bernstein once told Longin that he found the film humorous. Fleming has continued to work steadily and is currently in Europe for Netflix’s Emily in Paris as a production manager and executive. But he finds it a challenge to figure out what’s left on the table these days.

“People still want to laugh at everything, but it’s hard to find something to laugh at because the world has become so dark,” he said. “It’s always about pushing boundaries when you’re doing comedy, and how do you push it when the world has fallen apart? It’s just much more complicated now. ”

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