By: Brian Brooks
One thing about Sarah Palin, she has staying power. People on the left and right love and hate her (or both) and as Mitt Romney gears up to choose his potential Veep, it’s hard to imagine whoever it is will have the same cultural impact as Palin. But countless on-TV appearances later another film – this time, made for HBO – brought out star-wattage and more controversy in Game Change, which the filmmaker recently spoke about including his frustration at negative feedback from both sides of the political spectrum.
Directed by Jay Roach and starring Julianne Moore as the Palin herself along with Ed Harris (as McCain) and Woody Harrelson, the film followed Arizona Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign from his selection of Palin as his running mate and his ultimate defeat, some would say due in large part to Palin’s much ballyhooed public and media gaffes including her ill-fated interview with then CBS News anchor Katie Couric in which she had difficulty picking a newspaper that she reads daily and taking some geographic liberties with Russia’s proximity to Alaska.
Game Change was not Roach’s first foray into campaign controversy. His earlier HBO film Recount, which followed the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore that ended up in the Supreme Court, giving the election to Bush, won three Emmy Awards in 2008. Roach told The Hollywood Reporter he tried on numerous occasions to reach out to Palin to cooperate on the film to no avail. He even tried tracking her down at a string of parties around the time of the White House Correspondents dinner last year. “I really thought I would go up to her and say, ‘Hi, my name’s Jay Roach and I’m doing this film about the McCain-Palin campaign…I’m sincerely trying to get the story right and it’d be great if you want to talk about it and tell a story with even more layers and depth.’ So it would’ve been the world’s most awkward conversation; she’d already said ‘no’.”
Roach took heat for portraying Palin as falling apart at the seams in the wake of the Couric interview, though Roach said he and Moore were trying to find empathy for the V.P. candidate, telling THR, “What might that have been like, to have been surrounded by people you don’t trust anymore, to have to experience so much public humiliation and mockery and, you know, widespread judgment?”
And what about the heavy response on both sides of the proverbial aisle once the film hit HBO? “I think I was annoyed by the fact that the people who were attacking the film hadn’t seen it, and they said, ‘We haven’t seen it, but we hate it,'” said Roach. He noted that some people thought it was too sympathetic though he said he thinks that crowd had likely expected it to be more critical.