EXCLUSIVE: Primed for its world premiere Thursday at the Toronto Film Festival, Rob Reiner’s new movie LBJ shows President Lyndon Johnson in a different light. In LBJ we not only see the man known for pushing through the most comprehensive civil rights bill in history, but also a President who was surprisingly insecure and more complicated than he appeared to the outside world.
That is what attracted Reiner to the project in the first place, balancing what he called an incredibly powerful and effective president who was also a “very complex character, almost Shakespearean in a way” when I talked to him and his LBJ, Woody Harrelson, about this film, which is up for sale at TIFF. “Here was a guy who was so effective in persuading people to come around to his position, and at the same time have this incredible insecurity at his core. I thought if I can get that across somehow then it makes it a more interesting film,” Reiner told me for a piece Deadline ran last week.
Reiner also told me there is a little bit of a parallel to the current election. “I think LBJ would have been very aware of the celebrity aspect of Donald Trump, just as he was very, very conscious of the fact that John F. Kennedy was a movie star-type politician and LBJ (who ran against him for the 1960 Democratic nomination and later became his Vice President) was intimidated by that,” he said. “We hit on that a little bit in the movie.” The director also noted that when LBJ ran in 1964 against Barry Goldwater there was an ad that painted the arch conservative Goldwater as being someone you couldn’t trust with the nuclear button. “That is similar to what we’re having now,” notes Reiner of his film’s contemporary relevance.
Here then is an exclusive first look at Woody Harrelson in LBJ. Check it out above.
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