Palin Played Tough Role, Stars Say at ‘Game Change’ Premiere

/images/game_%20change_julianne_moore.jpgSarah Palin faced a difficult role when GOP nominee John McCain asked her to join his 2008 ticket, according to the creators of HBO’s doc-drama Game Change airing March 10. McCain picked the Alaska governor as his running mate after just 18 months experience for her in state-level office. This created for her a tremendous, almost unprecedented challenge in American public life.

Game Change McCain and PalinGame Change stars, writers and directors spoke on the evening of March 8 at the film’s red-carpet premiere that I covered at the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia.

“This movie is not as much a movie about Sarah Palin as about our political process -- how we choose our leaders,” said Julianne Moore. She portrays Palin and is shown at right and at left with Ed Harris as McCain in film scenes. The movie is based on two chapters from the best-seller Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.

“You almost have to be an actor no matter what kind of chops as a policy expert or a candidate in the race,” commented Director Jay Roach at the premiere. “You also have to become a charismatic, bubbly, attractive person to get people’s attention.”

The movie has drawn generally good reviews, such was one from People Magazine: "You don't have to be a Tea Partier to sympathize as Palin comes close to a breakdown after being mocked nationally for her ignorance: In Change's best scene, Palin watches in mute despair and disgust as Tina Fey impersonates her on TV. The point, of course, is that we believe Moore is Palin. The movie itself isn't great – Ed Harris is given a white comb-over and little to do as McCain – yet it plausibly lays out Palin's path from unsteady candidate to confident (or arrogant) rogue player." The cast is here.

The McCain and Palin camps have each launched tough criticisms, albeit without advance access to the film. McCain has said he won’t watch it, his daughter Meghan denounced it, also without seeing it. Palin’s aides have issued a rebuttal, although they haven’t seen the film and did not cooperate in the filming.

The senator’s wife, Cindy McCain, complained this week to a CNN host, “I lived this, and from everything I've read and heard it doesn't even resemble what took place.” She objected to what she's heard is the portrayal of Palin.  “I think what happened to her is totally unfair. I am truly sorry if they have depicted her in any fashion other than a strong, independent woman,” she said. the Washington Post reported, Sarah Palin staff lashes out at media, film.

Writer and co-executive producer Dan Strong said, however, that all of the positives that Palin camp underscores are part of the film, and that he 24 of the 25 former McCain staffers he interviewed concurred with the film’s focus. “You see what people go through” during campaigns,” he continued. The movie therefore is “extremely sympathetic and extremely dramatic.” Heilemann said the book received scant criticism about accuracy upon publication but there’s something about a movie that brings out attacks. Halperin said the movie’s timing now is because of HBO’s production schedule, not the political calendar.

Moore described how she studied Palin. "I had all of her media appearances, all of the debates, all of the speeches -- everything was on my iPod,” Moore said. “So I'd go running to it, I'd listen to it in the car, I had it playing non-stop, basically."

As for more general impressions?

“Really,” Moore continued about the movie, “it’s about how we are drawn again and again to people who are wildly charismatic and attractive -- and maybe have a movie star quality. And why we think those attributes are necessary for a leader is beyond me. Obviously, they’re not."

Sarah Paulson portrays a GOP political aide, Nicole Wallace, who is supposed to help support or even guide Palin through the rigors of a national campaign. “You’re really watching a story about a woman who was thrust onto a national stage completely ill-equipped and with the highest stakes possible,” Paulson told reporters at the Newseum. “So that alone is a very compelling story."

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OpEd News, Sarah Palin and the Republican Identity Crisis, Bob Burnett, March 15, 2012. HBO's splendid movie,"Game Change," tells the story of Sarah Palin's rise and fall as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential contest. It provides insight into the GOP's identity crisis that's produced this year's demolition derby in the Republican primaries. Game Change asserts that Palin was a desperate choice by the McCain campaign. Because they needed a dynamic vice-presidential candidate to stop Barack Obama's momentum, McCain and his advisers rushed the process and did not adequately vet Palin.  Then they discovered Palin had little knowledge of current events, much less foreign and domestic policy.  At first they kept her isolated from the press and attempted to tutor her. When that didn't work, and she gave several disastrous interviews, they had her memorize a script and emphasized Palin's singular talent: "She's the best actress in American politics." None of this is particularly new information to the political cognoscenti -- although the story is amplified by Julianne Moore's unerring portrayal of Palin.  It illustrates the GOP has a fundamental flaw -- an identity crisis -- and the only way they can cover it up is to have an actor be their Presidential candidate.

CNN, 'Game Change' actors dish on Palin, portrayals and politics, Sally Holland, March , 12, 2012.  Actress Julianne Moore, who portrays former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in the HBO movie Game Change, said she was surprised to learn how disorganized the McCain-Palin campaign was in 2008. “I really had an assumption that things were more organized than they are,” she told CNN on the red carpet before a screening at the Newseum in Washington.  “I think this campaign was notorious for being a difficult one and one that was pretty disorganized,” she said. Palin and McCain turned down interview requests by movie director Jay Roach, so he said he used the reporting by Halperin and Heilemann along with voice recordings of Palin reading her own books to make the story as authentic as possible.  “(The voice recordings) added a whole other layer of empathy for me,” he said. “It actually added a few details. When she calls her son in Iraq in the middle of the election, it’s very moving.” 

People Magazine, Julianne Moore Nails Sarah Palin in Game Change: Review, Tom Gliatto, March 9, 2012. No one doubted that Julianne Moore would nail the physical details playing Sarah Palin in Game Change, about the Alaska governor's astonishing explosion on the political scene in 2008 as John McCain’s running mate. So, yes, she does "the voice," which is flat yet nasal. But that's just the starting point. Moore is an unusual actress: At her best -- and she is here -- she's completely empathetic but also mysteriously remote. Her Palin from moment to moment is absolutely real -- but always open to interpretation. Members of the "lame-stream media," as Palin famously labeled them, will enjoy the  satirical touches that glint like light off her spectacles. (When Palin finally pronounces Ahmadinejad correctly, the campaign staff applauds.)

Huffington Post / Gossip Center, Julianne Moore Premieres “Game Change” In Washington DC, (Video) March 9, 2012. Video Enjoying her time in the Nation’s Capital City, Julianne Moore was spotted at the premiere of her new film “Game Change” in Washington DC last night (March 8).  Joined by costar Sarah Paulson and co-authors of the book “Game Change” Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the Forgotten actress looked magnificent in a green dress with gold heels. Enjoy the pictures of Julianne Moore at the 'Game Change' premiere in Washington, DC.

Politico, 'Game Change' premieres in Washington, Caitlin McDevitt, March 8, 2012. Julianne Moore didn’t look a bit like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday night. The actress, who plays Palin in HBO’s “Game Change,” wore her red hair in a bun and donned a slinky green dress with a very low-cut neckline to the film’s D.C. premiere.  “If anything, I think what we take away from it is: why are we so attracted to people who are so incredibly attractive and charismatic and seem like movie stars?” Moore said. “Why is that something we look for in our political leaders?” Though the film takes place on the stump, Moore said she doesn’t have much experience with real campaign events. “Me? No!” the actress exclaimed. Well, not really. “I worked the [Walter] Mondale campaign years ago,” Moore added, explaining, “I was just out of college actually. So I did a lot of leafleting and stuff like that.” Also spotted at Thursday’s premiere at the Newseum: Actor Tom Hanks (one of the film’s executive producers).

Politico, Roger Ebert's ‘Game Change’ of heart on Sarah Palin, Patrick Gavin, March 6, 2012. Movie critic Roger Ebert has not been a fan of Sarah Palin over the years. On his Twitter account, Ebert is a regular critic of the former Alaska governor. And, in a surprising turn, it is the new HBO movie Game Change — which has been criticized by Palin supporters (and Palin herself) as being unfairly negative in its portrayal of the one-time vice presidential nominee — that has softened Ebert toward Palin. “Sarah Palin lacked the preparation or temperament to be one heartbeat away from the presidency, but what she possessed in abundance was the ability to inflame political passions and energize the John McCain campaign with star quality,” Ebert writes in his review. “That much we already knew. What I didn’t expect to discover after viewing Game Change, a new HBO film about the 2008 McCain campaign, was how much sympathy I would feel for Palin, and even more for John McCain.”

Washington Post, John McCain says no, he will not watch HBO’s ‘Game Change’ (Video), Emily Yahr, March 1, 2012. Senator John McCain, Jay Leno. (NBC - NBC) John McCain paid a visit to “The Tonight Show” on Wednesday, and Jay Leno took the opportunity to ask the senator if he had plans to watch “Game Change,” HBO’s upcoming movie about the McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Now, this movie ‘Game Change,’” said Leno, by way of an opening segue. “It comes on HBO next week.” “I hope it’s one of those silent ones,” McCain joked. “No, it’s not, it’s not silent,” Leno said. “But it deals with Sarah Palin and the whole election. Are you going to watch the movie?” “No,” McCain assured him. “I heard enough about the book that it’s taken from — unattributed quotes, unnamed sources. But it’s a free country.” Leno then assured McCain that he came off “very good” and as “a gentleman” in the movie. This week, HBO sent a letter to the press in defense of the film, saying that “HBO has a long track record of producing fact-based dramas, going to great lengths to get the story right,” and when the book was released two years ago, “It went unchallenged and unrefuted by the Palin camp.”

Vanity Fair, Q&A: Jay Roach on Game Change, Any Austin Powers Reboots, and His New Will Ferrell Comedy, Krista Smith, March 9, 2012. Director Jay Roach -- winner of two Emmys for 2008’s Recount, and famous for helming the Meet the Parents and Austin Powers comedic empires -- is now out with Saturday’s Game Change, HBO’s feature-length adaptation of the John Heilemann–Mark Halperin bestseller. Roach, who cops to being a lifelong “politics junkie,” spoke with senior West Coast editor Krista Smith about whether John McCain and Sarah Palin will ever watch the film, those Austin Powers reboot rumors, and his new Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis comedy highlights from their chat:

Krista Smith: People always associate you with the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents style of comedy—how did you get into politics?

Jay Roach: I’ve been interested in politics from way, way back, and I’d even thought about going to law school at a point. I have a degree in economics and I was kind of on a pre-law track, and then I started doing more and more camera work, which changed everything. I partly got involved in Recount by working on another project that was about Mark Felt, a kind of Rashomon version of All the President’s Men, because Mark Felt was Deep Throat, and I am involved in developing that project.

Washington Post, ‘Game Change’ debuts Saturday, draws criticism from Palin, McCain, Cara Kelley, March 8, 2012. HBO’s much anticipated movie adaptation of “Game Change,” the best-selling book by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann about the 2008 presidential election, airs Saturday night. The film has drawn criticism from two of the major characters, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Arizona Sen. John McCain, played by Julianne Moore and Ed Harris respectively.

Washington Post, Sarah Palin staff lashes out at media, film: A ‘lesser man would have hanged himself by now,’ Aaron Blake, Feb. 22, 2012. Former Sarah Palin staff are lashing out at a new HBO movie depicting the 2008 campaign, going so far as to accuse the media of metaphorically beating her. “Look with your own eyes at what she and her family have endured...” said former Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton. “Any lesser man would have hanged himself by now.”


Political Commentary on Other Topics

Washington Post, Obama’s sin is not hypocrisy but naivete, Ruth Marcus, March 9, 2012. Steve Ricchetti is a once and, no doubt, future lobbyist. So it was inevitable that Vice President Biden’s decision to hire Ricchetti as a senior adviser would prompt howls about Obama administration hypocrisy. After all, it had pledged to keep lobbyists out of its White House, and now it was bringing in one of the city’s top you-know-whats. Make that former you-know-whats: Ricchetti, cleansing himself of the supposed sin of lobbying, had dropped his lobbyist registration shortly before the start of the Obama administration — though he remained head of the, yes, lobbying firm he founded with his lobbyist brother. President Obama’s self-imposed ban on lobbyists delivered on a campaign pledge adopted in the aftermath of the seamy Jack Abramoff scandal. I’m not arguing that lobbyists are candidates for sainthood — just that they are not the demons of popular, and Obama campaign, imagination.