Words upset `Reagans' filmmakers

Producers, director disagree with `JFK' comparison

Fall TV

November 25, 2003|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

The Hollywood producers and director of the controversial miniseries The Reagans reacted angrily yesterday to CBS chairman Leslie Moonves' explanation as to how and why his network chose not to air the film about former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.

In talking to reporters yesterday during a separate CBS news conference, Moonves compared the miniseries directed by Robert Ackerman and produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to Oliver Stone's JFK. He characterized it as "interpretive" and lacking "balance" in the way it presented a political "point of view." Moonves said he was promised a "love story" about Ronald and Nancy Reagan and decided not to air The Reagans after he was presented with a "political film" by the producers.

"None of us went into this with a political agenda," Ackerman said yesterday in a telephone press conference for Showtime, the Viacom-owned pay cable channel that will show the film Nov. 30. Both Showtime and CBS are owned by Viacom, but CBS is seen in 108 million homes, Showtime in only 13 million.

"I think for him [Moonves] to make the comparison to an Oliver Stone is really not fair," Ackerman continued, "because certainly JFK was politically driven and it had a thesis it was trying to prove [that Kennedy was assassinated in a conspiracy orchestrated by Lyndon Johnson]. Our movie does not."

Robert Greenblatt, president of Showtime Entertainment, was even more direct in taking on his corporate partner, laying out a timeline that contradicted Moonves' claim made repeatedly earlier in the day that the filmmakers delivered something quite different from what they promised.

"Leslie Moonves is the chairman of CBS, and the script, the casting, every single day of dailies was available to him. In fact, he commissioned and paid for all it. And if he didn't know what movie he was getting, that's not the fault of the producers, the director or anyone associated with the film," Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt said Moonves ordered the filmmakers to crunch a post-production schedule of 10 weeks to less than one so that he could have The Reagans in time for the November sweeps rating period.

The producers said one controversial line of dialogue that has often been quoted in stories about the film will be cut from the version that airs on Showtime. The dialogue involves Reagan saying, "They who live in sin, will die in sin." It is an alleged reference to AIDS victims.

The filmmakers acknowledged yesterday that they had made up the line - that Reagan had never said it.

"Making that change is the one give-in to the political furor that we thought we could make," Greenblatt said.

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