Film

‘Reagan’ Attacks Netanyahu

by

After a Tuesday night Washington screening of his new film Syriana–starring George
Clooney and partially, loosely based on former CIA officer Bob Baer’s memoir See No
Evil
–sponsored by the New
Democratic Network
, writer/director Stephen Gaghan admitted he was a little afraid about taking questions from “a Washington audience,” as such creatures tend to be “better informed” than most, and therefore more likely to ask tough questions.

But there’s nothing like a Hollywood presence to disarm even the most exacting of Washingtonians, and Gaghan had nothing to worry about. Perhaps consciously, perhaps not, he was generous with his audience, sharing some illuminating anecdotes about the interviews he conducted with various D.C. political luminaries and policy wonks while researching the film–anecdotes that, he said, did not inspire
scenes in the movie, as he feared no one would have believed them.

Among them:

  • As Gaghan was interviewing a “prominent Washington conservative
    thinker,” the meeting was interrupted by a coterie of Iranian exiles who
    wanted to discuss how a plan to privately topple the Iranian government
    through the purchase and infiltration into Iran of “rainmaking
    machines” was
    going. (Though he declined to answer Voice contributor Laura Rozen‘s question as to just
    who
    the “thinker” in question was, Gaghan said he was sorely tempted; smart
    money is on someone with the initials M.L.)
  • Recalling an audience with Richard Perle at his home
    (“somewhere in Potomac or Bethesda”) in late 2002, Gaghan said he’d
    asked
    Perle who was going to run the new Iraq. “I said, ‘Look, it’s not going
    to
    be Chalabi. The
    guy
    hasn’t lived in Iraq since 1959. He wears Hermes ties. The Iraqi people
    will
    take to him like a bad organ transplant and reject him. So who’s it
    going to
    be?’ So he steeples his fingers, just like Mr Burns on the Simpsons,
    and at
    that moment the doorbell rings. And he says, ‘I’ll introduce you to
    Bibi on
    the way out.’ And in the hallways, there’s Bibi Netanyahu
    surrounded by, like, nine security guys. And Perle has this terrier
    puppy
    named Reagan. And Reagan runs up to Netanyahu and jumps up with his
    nose in
    his crotch. Most people would either do something like, ‘Oh, good
    dog,’ or
    ‘Richard, can you do something?’ but Netanyahu did something I’d never
    seen
    anyone do before: He just started quivering with rage. So I was like,
    ‘Reagan, not on former heads of state.’ ”

    Gaghan’s levity was not received well, he said, by Bibi or
    Perle.

  • Gaghan also revealed that the movie’s ending (and no spoiler here,
    but
    let’s just say it doesn’t offer much hope) was a sudden, politically
    inspired last-minute deviation from the script. Just as work on the
    scene
    originally planned was starting, the crew in Dubai got word that George
    W.
    Bush had been re-elected. The news was such a downer, said Gaghan, that
    he
    made a mordant quick decision—one he chose not to share with the
    suits in
    Hollywood. When word reached them, they were not happy, and tried to get
    executive producer Steven
    Soderbergh
    to
    intervene.
    Soderbergh’s response to the new scene: “Fuck, why didn’t I think of
    that?”