In the film, Hugh Jackman plays embattled U.S. Presidential Democratic candidate Gary Hart. Though the Hart scandal occurred when Reitman was a ten-year-old kid, he became fascinated by the Colorado senator’s derailed run at the presidency when news broke that he was having an extramarital affair with Donna Rice. Within a week’s time after the news happened, Hart was out of the 1988 race.
Here’s a guy “who was favored to be the president of the United States,” said the director at Deadline’s London Contenders, “He was 25 points ahead of every Democrat and ten points ahead of George Bush.”
“Hart was prescient. This was a guy who, in 1987, was already saying America is addicted to oil, that addiction is going to take us into the Middle East where we will encounter Islamic terrorism, we will not know how to fight it,” Reitman told the audience.
In an era where some believe President Donald Trump gets away with plenty, especially his inflammatory rhetoric and offensive comments about women (read the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape that dropped before his election), Hart is an ironic subject for a movie in these controversial political times. It was a moment “in which American politics shifted,” Reitman explains.
“Our relationship with public and private shifted, obviously there’s a gender politics story which has roots of where we are in 2018, and our relationship between journalists and politicians shifted as well” adds Reitman, who co-wrote the Sony/Bron Studios movie with New York Times magazine journalist Matt Bai (based on his book All the Truth is Out) and Jay Carson, former press secretary for Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean.
“The Hart story is a great pH test on what flaws we’re willing to put up with in our President. There’s no good guys or bad guys. The movie is a mirror,” continues Reitman. Hart was a politician, who, when this occurred, was conflicted over whether the press should know about his private life or strictly his platform. “It was a true inner conflict unlike certain modern politicians who are shameless and have no inner conflict at all,” says Reitman hinting about Trump, but not mentioning him by name.
“I’ve seen people in the audience argue: One person will say ‘Oh, wow that’s a president I wish we could have had’ but the other person says ‘No, this is the first moment of the #MeToo moment’ and there’s truth-to-power,” continued Reitman.
“It was an incredible moment in American history where in the middle of the night, in an alleyway, behind Hart’s townhouse, he came in contact with these three journalists and nobody knew what to do because nobody had been in this position before. And within a week, Hart left politics forever and when I heard the story, it sounded like a movie: A western standoff in the midst of a film noir,” says the director.
“We want to know our politicians as people, we don’t want to know them as simply ideas,” says Reitman, “once we decide we want to know them as human beings, how do journalists decide what is important, and what is relevant? That’s the question the movie is asking audiences.”