Hollywood Pokes Fun at the Left

Well, it’s about time some balance came out of Hollywood. Slowly, but hopefully surely, it seems that lately more conservative actors are coming out of the woodwork, like John Voight and Janine Turner. I hope this will encourage more to come forth to show that the bleeding liberals aren’t the only ones that give Hollywood a voice. The more that do come forward the more support there will be for them, I believe. This is a new movie fixing to come out called “An American Carol” by David Zucker who directed “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun”. He turnes his sights on “Anti-Americanism”. I hope this movie will be a national block buster success. I plan to see it. I hope you will too.

by Stephen F. Hayes
“Action!”

The set jumps to life. Two young men–both terrorists–enter the station. They are surprised to see a security checkpoint manned by two NYPD officers. “I’ll need to see your bag, please,” says one of the officers. The lead terrorist glances nervously at his friend and swings his backpack down from his shoulder to present it to the cops. Just as the officer pulls on the zipper, however, a small army of ACLU lawyers marches up to the policemen with a stop-search order. The cops look at each other and shrug their shoulders. “This says we can’t search their bags.”

The young men are relieved. They smile fiendishly as they walk toward the crowded platform. As the lead terrorist once again slips the backpack over his shoulder, he mutters his appreciation.

“Thank Allah for the ACLU.”

Zucker’s latest movie, An American Carol, is unlike anything that has ever come out of Hollywood. It is a frontal attack on the excesses of the American left from several prominent members of a growing class of Hollywood conservatives. Until now, conservatives in Hollywood have always been too few and too worried about a backlash to do anything serious to challenge the left-wing status quo.

David Zucker believes we are in a “new McCarthy era.” Time magazine film writer Richard Corliss recently joked that conservative films are “almost illegal in Hollywood.” Tom O’Malley, president of Vivendi Entertainment, though, dismisses claims that Hollywood is hostile to conservative ideas and suggests that conservatives simply haven’t been as interested in making movies. “How come there aren’t more socialists on Wall Street?”

But Zucker’s film, together with a spike in attendance at events put on by “The Friends of Abe” (Lincoln, not Vigoda)–a group of right-leaning Hollywood types that has been meeting regularly for the past four years–is once again reviving hope that conservatives will have a battalion in this exceedingly influential battleground of the broader culture war.

Zucker has always been interested in politics. Among other things, Zucker condemned the Kent State shootings and lamented the mistreatment of America’s blacks. Two years later, he appeared on stage with lefty leading man Warren Beatty and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. Zucker says at the time he was “very liberal.”

David Zucker got his start in entertainment right after school. In 1971, he teamed up with his brother and two friends to create an irreverent revue called Kentucky Fried Theater.

They caught the attention of some of Hollywood’s boldfaced names–the show would serve as one of Lorne Michaels’s inspirations for Saturday Night Live–and in 1977 they released their first film, The Kentucky Fried Movie. It was the first of many classics: Airplane!, Top Secret!, The Naked Gun, BASEketball.

The holiday in An American Carol is not Christmas and the antagonist is not Ebenezer Scrooge. Instead, the film follows the exploits of a slovenly, anti-American filmmaker named Michael Malone, who has joined with a left-wing activist group (Moovealong.org) to ban the Fourth of July. Along the way, Malone is visited by the ghosts of three American heroes–George Washington, George S. Patton, and John F. Kennedy–who try to convince him he’s got it all wrong. When terrorists from Afghanistan realize that they need to recruit more operatives to make up for the ever-diminishing supply of suicide bombers, they begin a search for just the right person to help produce a new propaganda video. “This will not be hard to find in Hollywood,” says one. “They all hate America.” When they settle on Malone, who is in need of work after his last film (Die You American Pigs) bombed at the box office, he unwittingly helps them with their plans to launch another attack on American soil.

The entire film is an extended rebuttal to the vacuous antiwar slogan that “War Is Not the Answer.” Zucker’s response, in effect: “It Depends on the Question.”

Zucker had originally hoped to cast Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy) as Malone, but a timing conflict kept him from getting it done. 

McEveety is one of several big names that will make it hard for the Hollywood establishment to ignore An American Carol. Jon Voight plays George Washington. Dennis Hopper makes an appearance as a judge who defends his courthouse by gunning down ACLU lawyers trying to take down the Ten Commandments. James Woods plays Michael Malone’s agent. And Kelsey Grammer plays General George S. Patton, Malone’s guide to American history and the mouthpiece of the film’s writers.

I chatted with Grammer on the set at Warner Brothers studios. “I’m glad some of the bigger guys jumped in–Dennis Hopper, Jon Voight, James Woods.”

Grammer has been out as a conservative for several years and has publicly mused about running for office. His name comes up periodically when California Republicans are brainstorming about candidates to take on Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein for their Senate seats. It’s not hard to see why. He is passionate about the issues that matter most to conservatives and extraordinarily articulate.

“The accepted way to speak about America is in the voice that disrespects it. And the voice that’s unacceptable is the one that loves America,” he says, wearing the uniform of an Army general and sipping from a bottle of pomegranate juice. “How did we get here?”

Robert Davi, who plays the lead terrorist in the Zucker film, joins us as the discussion turns from policy to the cable pundit shows. Davi is one of those actors with an instantly recognizable face–he was the villain in the Bond film Licence to Kill–but whose name is unknown to most of the country.

Eventually, the conversation turns to the war and the opposition to it–the subject of their current project. “No one on the left wants to admit that radical Islamists want to kill Americans, the Jews–everyone in the West,” Davi says. “I try to talk to my friends on the left and they just don’t get it. Most of them have never even heard of Sayyid Qutb. How can you have an intellectual discussion about the war we’re in without knowing who Sayyid Qutb is?” he asks, raising his voice so that actors from other tables glance over to see what’s causing the commotion. JFK concentrates on his food.

Later that same day, I spoke to Lee Reynolds, who plays the New York police officer whose efforts to search the terrorists are thwarted by the ACLU. Reynolds, too, is a conservative–something David Zucker did not know when he cast Reynolds in the anti-Kerry ad he produced in 2004. Reynolds was active duty military for 12 years and shortly after 9/11 worked as the chief media officer for detainee operations at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“Once they found out I was a Republican, unfortunately for some people it was a problem,” he recalls. Several people who had talked to him regularly throughout the shoot simply stopped. And a trip that he was to have taken to participate in an offsite shoot across the country was abruptly cancelled. Another person was sent in his place. Reynolds says that he had only two colleagues who treated him the same way they had before, including “an anti-Bush lesbian” who was disgusted by the dogmatism of the others on the film. Reynolds, now a reservist, is scheduled to leave for Iraq in early 2009. The more Zucker is known as a conservative, the more frequently he has encounters with others who consider themselves conservative.

On one of the days I was on set, McEveety had invited Vivendi Entertainment president Tom O’Malley to meet Zucker. Vivendi had just agreed to distribute the film and had promised wide release.

Such revelations are common occurrences at the periodic meetings of the secret society of Hollywood conservatives known as the “Friends of Abe.” The group, with no official membership list and no formal mission, has been meeting under the leadership of Gary Sinise (CSI New York, Forrest Gump) for four years. Zucker had spent a year working on a film with Christopher McDonald without learning anything about his politics. Shortly after the film wrapped, he ran into McDonald, best known as Shooter McGavin from Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore, at one of these informal meetings.

From the beginning, Zucker knew what the political message of An American Carol would be. His problem was how to make it funny.

The war on terror, of course, does not lend itself to hilarity. But Zucker knows comedy and has spent nearly four decades making people laugh. With his friend Lewis Friedman, a comedy writer, Zucker went looking for the absurd in the political left and found an abundance of material.

Zucker and Friedman poked fun of the know-nothing culture of antiwar protests. During a rally at Columbia University, students chant: “Peace Now, We Don’t Care How!” Some of their protest signs are ones you’d find at any antiwar rally. Some are not. “9/11 Was an Inside Job,” “Kick Army Recruiters Off Campus!” “End Violence–War Is Not the Answer!” “End Disease–Medicine Is Not the Answer!” “It’s Too Dark Outside, The Sun Is Not the Answer!” “Overpopulation–Gay Marriage Is the Answer!”

When he heard Rosie O’Donnell claim that “radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state,” he knew he had several minutes of material.

In the film, a rotund comedian named Rosie O’Connell makes an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor to promote her documentary, The Truth About Radical Christians. O’Reilly shows a clip, which opens with a pair of priests walking through an airport–as seen from pre-hijacking surveillance video–before boarding the airplane. Once onboard, they storm the cockpit using crucifixes as their weapon of choice. Next the documentary looks at the growing phenomenon of nuns as suicide bombers, seeking 72 virgins in heaven. A dramatization shows two nuns, strapped with explosives, board a bus to the cries of the other passengers. “Oh, no! Not the Christians!” O’Connell’s work ends with a warning about new threats and the particular menace of the “Episcopal suppository bomber.”

Zucker is plainly not worried about offending anyone. David Alan Grier plays a slave in a scene designed to show Malone what might have happened if the United States had not fought the Civil War. As Patton explains to a dumbfounded Malone that the plantation they are visiting is his own, Grier thanks the documentarian for being such a humane owner. As they leave, another slave, played by Gary Coleman, finishes polishing a car and yells “Hey, Barack!” before tossing the sponge to someone off-camera.

It is one of just two references to the ongoing presidential campaign. (The other one, more cryptic, comes in a scene that’s a throwback to the Iraq Study Group ad. Neville Chamberlain, after polishing Adolf Hitler’s boots, signs the Munich Agreement, and declares: “We have hope now.”) But Tom O’Malley, president of Vivendi, believes that the timing of the film’s release–October 3–will give it special relevance to the current debates. And several of the film’s leading figures have strong opinions about Barack Obama. “Obama is not qualified to be president, and it’ll be a disaster,” says Zucker, who then pauses as if he’s said something he should have kept to himself. “Shouldn’t I be allowed to say that?”

Zucker says that one of the major differences between the left and the right in America today is that leftists think of their political opponents as evil. “I don’t think that Obama is an evil guy, I just think he’s wrong. But I do think we face real evil in Ahmadinejad and the mullahs and all these crazy guys.”

Does Obama understand that?

“I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”

Zucker points to a National Journal study that found Obama to be the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. “John Kerry was, and Obama is. Fortunately, Kerry was a stiff. But Obama isn’t a stiff and he’s really adaptable. He’s like a really clever virus who adapts. Obama’s the farthest left of all of these guys. And that’s why he associated with all of those crazies–terrorists, preachers of hate.”

Jon Voight, who says he was “duped” as a young man into rallying against the Vietnam war, is also troubled both by Obama’s associations and his willingness to end them so abruptly. “When I look at the other side, when I look at Barack Obama, I see expediency,” he says, pointing to Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and assuming Obama’s voice. “He’s like family. I could never disown him. I didn’t know him. I didn’t hear those words in that church.”

If those behind the film have similar views about Obama, many of them have opposing views about the long-term impact of a film like An American Carol on the movie industry.

“If this does well, it’ll change everything,” says Grammer.

“I think it would be pompous to say that,” says Voight. “It’s a movie. It’s a satire. And it’s a funny satire. I don’t want to point to this thing, just because there are so few films from conservative sources, and make it a target. It’s a movie. Let’s not burden this little horse with additional weights.”

David Zucker seems to be of two minds. When I ask him if he had an objective in making the film, he borrows a line from his friend and former partner, Jim Abrahams. “Avoid embarrassment.”

He adds: “I don’t have any desire to be taken seriously. Really, I really don’t. But having said that, I really believe this stuff. Why can’t I put it out there? And I’m scared to death of Obama. If I didn’t do something about it I would feel–My kids would ask: ‘What did you do in the war Daddy?'”

“I donated my career to stop this s–.”

Stephen F. Hayes, a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD, is the author of Cheney: The Untold Story of America’s Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President (HarperCollins)

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