As Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can tell you, Hollywood has long been a generous ATM for Democratic Presidential candidates and incumbents. However, today, a White House contender with actual Tinseltown experience formally announced his 2016 campaign – and we’re not talking about Donald Trump. “After many months of thought, deliberation and discussion, I have decided to seek the office of the Presidency of the United States,” said Jim Webb Thursday via his website. “Our country needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us,” he added.
How connected to Hollywood is the ex-Virginia Senator? Well, as the author of several military-themed novels and other nonfiction works, the former Marine and Vietnam vet calls himself “Public Servant. Warrior. Author. Film-Maker” on his official campaign website – so obviously Webb thinks the industry is a big part of who he is. Sources tell me that the Navy Secretary under Ronald Reagan (another Hollywood connection there by the way) plans to head out to L.A. soonish to raise money – just like his prospective Democratic nominee rivals ex-Secretary of State Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders already have. “People here know Jim Webb, they like Jim Webb, so he’ll get support but Hillary’s still got a hold on the big whale donors” a politically inclined producer told me.
That “film-maker” label Webb puts on himself comes in great part out his collaboration with Scott Rudin to develop the story that became the 2000 film Rules Of Engagement starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. With a “story by” credit on the project, Webb also served as executive producer on the William Friedkin-directed feature film, on which Stephen Gaghan is credited as writing the final screenplay. A box office success when it was released, the Paramount-distributed drama tracks the court martial trial of Jackson’s character, a Marine Colonel who was in charge when events outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen went fatally wrong. Jones plays an old acquaintance and military lawyer who defends Jackson’s Col. Terry Childers in court and against political railroading.
Whiskey River, another work of Webb’s, has been picked up by Warner Bros with Rob Reiner’s Castle Rock producing. That project is still in development. An Emmy winner for PSB reporting he did in 1983 on the Lebanese civil war, Webb also served as EP and was featured in the 2003 docu Prepared To Serve: The U.S. Naval Academy In The Vietnam Era. As with everyone who has ever had the Presidential bug or heard their name mentioned in such lofty circumstances, as Webb did in 2008 as a potential VP, there’s the lure of the green room. The former senator has been a frequent guest on the likes of Meet The Press and the now shuttered The Colbert Report over the years.
Webb has also criticized Hollywood’s tendency to stereotype on screen. Almost 10 years ago, he said in an interview with the Washington Post that he felt that the industry showed little imagination or sensitivity by too often making the bad guys in movies are “towelheads and rednecks — of which I am one.”