Four years ago
— back in 2008, John McCain named Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore in Game Change), a self-proclaimed “hockey mom” as his Republican running mate and upended the presidential election of that year.
McCain — knowing he was headed for a defeat — was looking for a game-changer to help him compete against the Democratic candidate Barack Obama who had already changed the game simply by being half-black. Now, the story of McCain’s impulsive move where Palin was selected with only a minimal background check, and the blow-back from her performance on the campaign trail, is all is a new HBO film, Game Change.
Roach, Politics & HBO
It comes from director Jay Roach who also helmed the HBO film about the tied 2000 election, Recount. That film also portrayed a controversial Republican female, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (played by Laura Dern).
Roach discussed his new film, which debuts on HBO on Saturday, March 10, with Entertainment Weekly shortly after he’d wrapped production. Here are some excerpts from what he had to say then:
I remember vividly watching her speak at the convention and just felt, “Wow, that is a bold move and hats off to whoever came up with that as a political strategy,” because she was electrifying. She’s completely compelling and interesting and charismatic. There were so many reasons why it was a great political move. It was amazing. She really got people to pay attention to politics in ways that I didn’t really remember happening before.
She [Sarah Palin] is one of the most famous people on the planet. We [knew] people watching the film would have all sorts of expectations about what Sarah Palin should be like. We expected people to bring up Tina Fey. We expected people to be skeptical about anyone who played her. My approach was to not try to impersonate her. In fact, we tried to go right at those expectations by having a scene where Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin is watching Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, replicating the moment where she watched SNL the night that [skit] ran. We have actual Tina Fey in that footage on the monitor specifically to say, “Okay, that’s one thing. And this is a different thing, entirely different.” This is not a caricature, and it’s not an impersonation. Julianne wanted to get not just into the surface — her skin, her clothes, her hair, and her accent — but to kind of internalize what she could imagine Sarah was going through psychologically, what anxieties she was experiencing stepping out on to the national stage.
We tried to play her [Palin] without being critical of her as a person and more just trying to question the decision — about how the process went. She’s a very interesting person who had a lot going on in her life at that point. She’s got five kids, a new baby with Down syndrome, an older boy going off to fight in Iraq, two teenage daughters, and now she is in the middle of a national campaign. You couldn’t really write a fictional situation with forces that could pull on someone harder than those forces pulled on her. Then with all that going on, to electrify her constituents as powerfully as she did. That was an amazing person that can do that.
Game Change also stars Ed Harris as Senator John McCain and, like Julianne Moore, he’s pretty good. HBO, March 10 is opening night.
Bush -vs- Gore
Recount is the story of the aftermath of the 2000 election that ended in a virtual tie between Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore. It begins with the election on November 7 and ends with the Supreme Court ruling, which stopped the Florida election recount on December 12.
Key points depicted include Gore’s retraction of his personal telephone concession to Bush in the early hours of November 8; the decision by the Gore campaign to sue for hand recounts in Democratic strongholds where voting irregularities were alleged, especially in light of the statistical dead heat revealed by the reported machine recount; Republican pressure on Florida’s Secretary of State Katherine Harris in light of her legally mandated responsibilities; the attention focused on the hand recounts by media, parties, and the public; the two major announcements by the Florida Supreme Court extending the deadline for returns in the initial recount and ordering a statewide recount of votes. It all came to a screeching halt when the Florida Supreme Court was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the famous Bush v Gore battle.
Here’s what director Jay Roach had to say about his earlier film:
From Recount, I learned that when an audience hears that a story is based on a true story, they want it to be true. Our continuous mantra was, “Get it right. Get the story right.” There are limits to what you can pull off in a two-hour dramatization of what was essentially a 60-day story, but if you can’t defend to yourself every single aspect of the story, then you can’t expect the audience to not sense that something’s fake or exaggerated. So we threw everything into that as our priority on this one too.
Here’s our Smackdown between Recount (2008) -vs- The Late Shift (1995).