Real-Life Spy Valerie Plame Is 'Fair Game' For New Movie The world first heard the name Valerie Plame in 2003. Her identity as a CIA officer was leaked by Bush administration officials when she was mentioned by name in an article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Her exposure as an undercover operative was seen as an attempt to discredit Plame's husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson. Now a new movie about the controversy and the tensions placed on the Wilson's marriage is about to open nationwide. Host Liane Hansen speaks to director Doug Liman about the film, Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
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Real-Life Spy Valerie Plame Is 'Fair Game' For New Movie

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Real-Life Spy Valerie Plame Is 'Fair Game' For New Movie

Real-Life Spy Valerie Plame Is 'Fair Game' For New Movie

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

A new movie about the controversy and the tensions placed on the Wilson's marriage is about to open nationwide. The film, "Fair Game," stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FAIR GAME")

M: (as Valerie Plame) Wilson never worked for the CIA but his wife...

M: (as Joe Wilson) Is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. He just went ahead and did it.

M: Did this run overseas?

M: It's in the newspaper, Valerie. It's on the...

M: No, no, that's Collins. Is he syndicated overseas?

M: Everywhere.

HANSEN: "Fair Game" is directed by Doug Liman. He's in our New York Bureau. Welcome to the program.

M: Thanks so much, Liane.

HANSEN: You're not a stranger to making movies involving spies - "The Bourne Identity" with Matt Damon, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." And you were the executive producer of several episodes of the cable TV drama "Covert Affairs." Why did you want to make "Fair Game," other than the spy angle?

M: I am obsessed with spies. And, you know, my actual involvement in this project didn't begin with the scandal back in 2003. You know, like a lot of Americans, I heard about what happened to Valerie Plame. I was outraged, but I was in the middle of putting together "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and you could imagine the kinds of problems I had dealing with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and I...

HANSEN: Really?

M: So, this film, for me, did not start from a political place. I thought, wow, these are amazing characters in this incredible story and it's just a bonus that it happens to be true.

HANSEN: The movie opens with scenes of Valerie Plame working overseas. She's working for the CIA; she's using aliases to prevent the sale of nuclear weapons components in various countries. There's a scene I want to play.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FAIR GAME")

M: If you help us, we help you. If you don't, your brother dies and tomorrow you're sitting next to your uncle in a cell in Thailand and it won't be me asking the questions.

U: No, no, you can't.

M: We can help him if he's listened to me, because I promise you one thing: right now, you have no idea what we can and cannot do.

HANSEN: Naomi Watts is Valerie Plame in the new film, "Fair Game." When she was outed as a CIA operative, a lot was said that she was kind of this third tier, you know, not very important, she didn't play too important a role in the CIA. Your movie opens with that scene where she's in full operative mode. Was it important for you to establish her as a legitimate undercover operative, one who was really involved in a lot of what was going on at the time?

M: And so is that person still your best friend? And how do you maintain a marriage when you can't tell your husband where you're going or how long you'll be gone and he just needs to know whether or not you need child care for the kids?

HANSEN: Right.

M: For some reason, I'm much more comfortable doing that than the very intimate scenes between Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame as their marriage is starting to come undone as a result of the pressure brought on them by the White House.

HANSEN: The movie uses a lot of real-life elements because it is based on facts. There's television footage from "Meet the Press," for example, and President Bush delivers the State of the Union address and then it leads to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Given that this is fact-based but you're also telling the story of the Wilsons and their marriage, at some times did you find yourself walking a fine line between docudrama and feature film?

M: I found during the course of making "Bourne Identity," the more real I made it and the more I borrowed from history and, you know, for "Bourne Identity," it's pretty widely known that my father was running the investigation to the Iran-Contra affair and I borrowed liberally from my father's investigation.

HANSEN: And I'll mention your father was attorney Arthur Liman.

M: That if you are going to make up characters for a film, you probably couldn't come up with better, more interesting characters than Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson and Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby on the other side.

HANSEN: Your late father, you mentioned, Arthur Liman, introduced you to this world of intelligence and information gathering, but he didn't want you to become a filmmaker. Why not?

M: But I really respect him for challenging me like that because, you know, he was one of the most persuasive human beings on the planet and yet, he wasn't able to convince me to give up my dream. And that gave me the thick skin that's enabled me to weather bad reviews. You know, being a film director isn't all good news. You know, you put yourself out there, you make yourself vulnerable and thanks to my father I've developed a thick skin early.

HANSEN: That's Doug Liman, the director of "Fair Game." The movie opens nationwide Friday. He joined us from our New York bureau.

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