Justice Integrity Project — Issue 1059

 
 
 
 
Justice Integrity Blog Post

New On 'District Insiders': The TV movie that deterred nuclear war danger

 


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The TV movie that deterred nuclear war danger

Director of ABC-TV’s 1983 “The Day After” Tells Why

 

By Wayne Madsen and Andrew Kreig

Famed storyteller Nicholas Meyer – Director of The Day After, the most-watched television film in U.S. history – this week described on the investigative podcast District Insiders his film’s enduring impact in deterring nuclear war.

More than 100 million Americans are estimated to have watched The Day After during its broadcast on ABC-TV. Many times that number watched in the Soviet Union and elsewhere globally.

nicholas meyerMeyer, right, described also why he and others associated with the film and the 2020 follow up documentary Television Event, produced by Jeff Daniels, have been making public appearances this fall that included visits to the United Nations and, on Dec. 4, to Lawrence, Kansas for a showing of Television Event, with a panel discussion that Meyer joined via Zoom.

The Day After portrayed the Kansas locale, the U.S. geographic center and home also to the University of Kansas, as a devastated ruin if nuclear war erupts. The film’s treatment was so powerful that it shocked many viewers, including President Ronald Reagan, into dramatic actions to reduce the risks of nuclear war.

“At a time when the world seems to be sleepwalking toward nuclear disaster, a new documentary aims to shake us into recognizing the danger -- just as The Day After did 40 years ago,” Meyer and his team said in advance of the forthcoming American release of Television Event early next year via the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) network.

District Insiders hosts Andrew Kreig and Wayne Madsen, reporters and authors long based in Washington, DC, explored further with Meyer the creative vision leading to the documentary and its enduring impact in motivating him, his colleagues and many others determined to raise alarms about cataclysmic threats.

The director, whose credits include directing three of the Star Trek films, several other major hits and authoring seven novels, recalled that while he was trying to decide whether to accept the offer to direct this film he shared with a psychiatric counselor how the project seemed likely to be squashed by hostile forces, thereby wasting everyone's time and hindering careers.

Nonetheless, recalled Meyer, himself the son of psychiatrist, his counselor stepped out of that profession’s traditional listening mode to advise that all of us have a responsibility to try to do what's right if the stakes are high enough for the world.

During his 67-minute District Insiders interview, Meyer recalled also a lasting memory of an encounter when at age seven his family met Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, widely regarded as “The father of the atomic bomb” because of his leadership in developing it during World War II.

Oppenheimer, subject of the blockbuster film Oppenheimer released last summer, seemed like one of the saddest people Meyer ever met, he recalled, noting that the sadness was striking even to a seven-year-old who had only the vaguest understanding of Oppenheimer’s past.

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