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Real Life as Reel Life
by Christopher Stone

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Brolin as W:

Brolin as W:
Early last month, at the multiplex, before BURN AFTER READING, I watched trailers for five upcoming movies. Three of the five Coming Attractions were advertising motion pictures about real-life people, not long-ago historical figures, but men who have affected the world in my lifetime. Hmmm. Real life as reel life. Very interesting. This column will peek at these films, featuring them in order of their box-office arrival. As Election Day looms, W, MILK, and FROST/NIXON, are looking for your box-office vote.


(October 17)

Who You'll See: Streisand's starry-eyed son-in-law, Josh Brolin is George W. Bush and Elizabeth Banks is his Laura. Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn is W.'s Mama, Barbara Bush, and another Oscar winner, Richard Dreyfuss, plays Dick Cheney.

What You'll See: Anyone familiar with director Oliver Stone's body of work (PLATOON 1986, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY 1989, JFK 1991, NIXON 1995, WORLD TRADE VENTER 2006) knows that his filmmaking is marked by a "take no prisoners" approach. So don't expect Stone to wrap W in swaddling clothes and cuddle him into submission.

Sean Penn is MILK, but who will be THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET?

Sean Penn is MILK, but who will be THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET?
follows Bush from his twenties to the White House.

After reading an early version of the script, Bush biographer, Robert Draper, DEAD CERTAIN, THE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE BUSH, commented, "It leaves you with the impression that the White House is run as a fraternity house with no reverence for hierarchy, the office itself or for the implications of policy."

Reflecting on the depiction of Bush in the same draft of the W script, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER commented, "President George W. Bush is a foul-mouthed, reformed drunk obsessed with baseball, Saddam Hussein and a conflicted relationship with his dad." Oliver Stone's third biopic of a U.S. President may make noise at the fall box-office, but it's unlikely to win votes for the Republican Party next month.


(November 26, limited, December 5, wide)

Who You'll See: Sean Penn has the title role of Harvey Milk, the 1970's gay community activist, later elected as San Francisco's first openly gay supervisor. ELI STONE's Victor Garber is San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, and Josh Brolin, W. himself, plays Dan White, the city supervisor who
As NIXON, Langella won a Tony. Is Oscar his next prize?

As NIXON, Langella won a Tony. Is Oscar his next prize?
assassinated both Milk and Moscone in 1978. It would seem that Brolin has developed a penchant for playing real-life dummies. Emile Hirsch, the title star of SPEED RACER, last summer's first big-budget box office crash and burn is Milk's friend and gay activist Cleve Jones.

What You'll See: Like W. director Oliver Stone, MILK helmer, Gus Van Sant (GOOD WILL HUNTING, FINDING FORRESTER, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES) is not known for subtlety, or for applying a velvet hammer. Van Sant's movie is but one of two projects about the revered Harvey Milk that were dueling to be made.
The other was THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET, based upon Randy Shilt's groundbreaking 1982 Milk biography of the same name. CHICAGO producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, themselves gay, had been working for the past 15 years to get their movie made. In lieu of MILK's arrival, THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET's future, if any, is uncertain.


December 5

Who You'll See: Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, re-creating their Broadway roles as Richard Nixon and David Frost. On Broadway, Langella won
The real-life Cheney and his reel-life counterpart.

The real-life Cheney and his reel-life counterpart.
the Tony Award for his Richard Nixon. Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and Patty McCormack are among the familiar supporting players in director Ron Howard's cast.

What You'll See: Don't expect Opie to tinker much with writer Peter Morgan's electrifying London and Broadway stage hit about two sly foxes trying to outsmart one another. Howard knows when to leave brilliant enough, alone. Langella's Nixon, circa 1977, is a disgraced president hoping to win a place in the hearts and minds of the American people by finally confronting the questions of Watergate in an exclusive interview with Britain's David Frost. On the other hand, Frost proves himself to be more than a breezy Brit interviewer who will be "putty" in Tricky Dickey's cunning hands.

Never underestimate director Ron Howard. This is precisely the kind of heady material he serves up so well - and right before award nominations are announced.

Enjoy the box-office's three fall forays into the realm of real life as reel life. Still and all, remember, Match-Flickers, even the most artistic rendering of real life is nothing more than an IMITATION OF LIFE.

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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