In the fall of 2018, I had a conversation that revealed a core problem with conservatives who are interested in entering the film industry. I was told at the time, “We can rehabilitate you, because right now you are not a sympathetic character.”
That was the year I was targeted during the Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. I was dragged into the fight when a woman named Christine Blasey Ford accused Brett of sexual assault and claimed that I was in the room when the alleged attack took place in the 1980s. The media went full-on Stasi. They and their DNC masters used opposition research, extortion threats, and an attempted honey trap. Our Stasi media charged that I’d presided over 10 gang rapes and bought and sold cocaine. They used as sources people I’ve never met.
During the height of the insanity, I got a call from a high-level public relations firm in Washington, D.C. They were willing to “rehabilitate” me, they said. There were publishers and even filmmakers interested in me. I would need to be rebooted, however, because (as they put it), “you are not a sympathetic character right now.”
In those words we find the core problem of conservatives who are attempting to make movies today. Conservatives don’t know what to do with flawed protagonists, and flawed protagonists make the most interesting characters.
Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire has made three dramas: “Run Hide Fight,” “Shut-In,” and the just-released “Terror on the Prairie.” In summary, the Daily Wire has made the same film with the same theme—damsel in distress kicks ass with firearms—three times. This stuff ain’t “The Godfather.”
After Kavanaugh was sworn in in 2018, I went to Kiawah Island, South Carolina to get away from D.C. It was there one night that I had another conversation with a Hollywood veteran named Greg Ellis. Ellis is quite accomplished, as Wikipedia attests: “Greg Ellis is a British author, television director, voice artist, and actor who has appeared in Oscar-winning movies, directed Hollywood superstars, produced and written television shows. He has starred in Broadway musicals, voiced animated characters for movies, television series, cartoons, and over 120 video games.”
Ellis is also the author of a great new book: The Respondent: Exposing the Cartel of Family Law. Ellis is a friend and champion Johnny Depp, who recently won a defamation suit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp has made a brilliant career out of playing flawed protagonists, from Captain Jack Sparrow to Hunter S. Thompson.
Over the phone, Ellis absolutely nailed why the Supreme Court battle I had experienced would make a good film. This was not a shoot ‘em up or an action movie, although there would be action. It was a psychological thriller about a man minding his own business when he is suddenly mauled by the American Stasi. The fact that I am a former drinker who has written some controversial stuff, and at one point made extra money photographing models—well, that just made me more human. The much larger point was it could be a film, a combination of “The Lives of Others,” “The Exorcist,” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” that could defend freedom, fun, the 1980s, and due process against the aspirations of our new totalitarians.
I mentioned to Ellis what I had been told—that I was not a sympathetic character. “Why, that’s insane,” he said in his British accent. “You’re almost the definition of a sympathetic character. Your flaws are at the core of what makes you sympathetic.” Then he said what a Hollywood veteran and expert performer knows: “Conservatives would want to make this a black-and-white morality tale. There is good and evil at play here, but at its heart this is a psychological drama.”
Exactly. I worked in a movie theater in the 1980s when “Top Gun” (1986) was released. It’s patriotic sequel “Maverick” is doing incredible business at the box office now, leading conservatives to declare that the lesson is we need more films just like it.
While “Maverick” is great, I think of other movies that could inspire conservatives. There’s “The Verdict,” a film that is memorable because it’s protagonist is so flawed—and so human. Paul Newman plays Boston lawyer Frank Galvin, a broken-down alcoholic who takes on a medical negligence case against powerful attorney Edward Concannon. Galvin is emotionally volatile, addicted to booze, in his 50s, and legally outgunned. The opposition even lures Galvin in with a honey trap.
Like so many characters from films at the time (not to mention the antiheroes of film noir), Galvin is memorable not only for his moral conscience, but also for his self-doubt. His type was once common in Hollywood before kids took over the script writing. Even a square character like Eliot Ness in the 1987 film “The Untouchables” stumbles. “I have foresworn myself,” Kevin Costner’s Ness says. “I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right.” Bruce Willis blasts the bad guys in “Die Hard” (1988), but then breaks down weeping because he is a failed husband. The conservative and Christian film industries are loaded with cardboard characters whose weaknesses never really get very dirty or dangerous—like, say, a Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner.”
In 2018, conservatives in Hollywood were handed a story with sex, alcoholism, politics, the party scene of the 1980s, psychological torture and a truly demonic antagonist in Michael Avenatti. Given such riches, it would be tragic if we couldn’t match the Left at its own game.