Clinton Movie Projects Criticized By Both Sides Of The Aisle
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Hillary Clinton has been one of the big stories this week, both in Washington and also in the entertainment world. Two movies were recently announced about the former Secretary of State, former senator, former first lady and also possible 2016 presidential candidate. These projects, one from NBC, the other from CNN, are only in the planning stages right now. But they've already sparked a lot of criticism from the both the right and the left.
And let's hear more about this now from Kim Masters from The Hollywood Reporter. She's here at NPR West to talk about it. Kim, thanks for coming in.
KIM MASTERS: Thank you.
GREENE: So, these two projects, they've been making a lot of news together, but they're actually really different. Tell me about them.
MASTERS: Well, one of them - the first one that was announced was announced by NBC. It's a four-hour miniseries. It supposedly will star Diane Lane, the actress. The other is a documentary. It's done by Charles Ferguson. He did a 2010 documentary "Inside Job," about the financial meltdown, and that won an Oscar. So that's for CNN, and that is, I think, the project that seems more serious and potentially more worrisome if you're Hillary Clinton.
GREENE: So CNN documentary and then NBC doing a miniseries with Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton, both of these, though, to air fairly soon - I mean, well before the 2016 campaign?
MASTERS: Well, if the formal candidacy is announced, you get into equal time issues. And already the GOP has seized on that. Reince Preibus from the GOP has threatened that if CNN or NBC goes forward with these projects - which they perceive as necessarily favoring Hillary Clinton - a view that I wouldn't necessarily assume, but that they are assuming - they're saying if they don't drop these projects by August 14, when Republicans meet, they will withdraw cooperation from GOP debates and - for both of these networks, CNN and NBC.
GREENE: And you mentioned one law there. Let's just clarify this, equal time. The law says once a campaign starts, networks have to give equal time to both sides in a campaign.
MASTERS: Right. Which, of course, supposes that these are not objective. The funny thing is that the GOP is assuming - as I said - that this will necessarily favor Hillary Clinton. I don't think the Clintons - they've been silent on this, but speaking to their associates, I don't think they make any such assumption at all. And already these projects have also drawn fire from the left, who fear that it could go quite the other way.
GREENE: What is the criticism? What is the fear coming from the left about these things?
MASTERS: Well, obviously Hillary Clinton has had her share of controversy in her life and it's been well covered. You know, I think a certain amount of spin is being put out there by her allies, saying it's boring, everybody's already made up their minds, so why is it even interesting? But you know, certainly as a documentary you're going to present material that is meant to be factual, there will be talking heads, and the fear is that that is a lot harder to rebut if it turns out to be negative. And certainly the previous film from this documentarian was not exactly a light kiss on somebody's cheek. With a dramatization, a miniseries, it's a lot easier to dismiss, positive or negative.
GREENE: Not often that we talk about the right and left agreeing these days...
MASTERS: (Unintelligible) bipartisan accord.
GREENE: There's bipartisan accord on this. So what is in the interest of these networks? What have NBC and CNN been saying about why they want to do this?
MASTERS: Well, I think CNN, it's sort of they want to make a little noise, they've been trying to boost their ratings, they have new leadership in the form of Jeff Zucker, formerly of NBC. In NBC's case, I actually am skeptical that this thing will ever happen. I just don't see the upside. It is politically fraught from both sides instantly. We've already seen that. And NBC has an out because the script isn't written yet and they can easily say it didn't work out. But let me just say, you know, this project, the writer, the director and the star, Diane Lane, are all represented by William Morris Endeavor, the agency. The head of that agency is Ari Emanuel. His brother is Rahm Emanuel. He was in the Clinton White House. You can already see how pressure could be brought to apply through surrogates if this becomes problematic and is seen as an issue.
GREENE: As soon as you see these political connections getting sort of involved in the entertainment worlds, lots of issues that could come up.
MASTERS: Yes. And historical precedent. Two miniseries were dropped in the past - one about the Reagans and one about the Kennedys. In both cases conservatives on the one hand, liberals on the other for the Kennedys, the family in the case of the Kennedys, put pressure on the History Channel to drop a $30 million miniseries, which they did. It was picked up by something called Reels Channel. And CBS dropped the Reagan series and put it on Showtime because they concluded it was not fair.
GREENE: Where does this go from here? I mean when will we get a feel for whether these projects are actually going to go forward?
MASTERS: Time will tell. I mean I think the CNN thing, I don't see how they back out of that at this point or even why they would. NBC, it may just fade into oblivion.
GREENE: Kim, thanks so much.
MASTERS: Thank you.
GREENE: Kim Masters hosts The Business on member station KCRW, and she joined us here at NPR West to talk about Hillary Clinton and all the news this week with a possible documentary and miniseries about her life.