The idea seems almost quaint, that one small moment of infidelity in a person’s marriage could ruin their chances at becoming the next President of the United States. But that’s exactly what happened to former Colorado Senator Gary Hart in the 1988 presidential election after it was revealed he had an extra-marital affair with campaign worker Donna Rice, who ambitions for the highest office in the land shattered after the story was reported. It was a moment that changed how politics was reported on in the media. It was a moment that arguably set the nation on a different trajectory, a trajectory that we are still on today.
The new film The Front Runner stars Hugh Jackman as Hart, and tracks the politician’s fall from his lead in the 1988 Presidential campaign to the
It was a story that certainly intrigued Front Runner director Jason Reitman when he first heard it. And as he explained on the red carpet before the screening of the film last night at the Philadelphia Film Festival, it was a story that he felt needed to be told.
“When I heard the Hart story a few years ago for the first time, I just couldn’t believe that in our recent history the presumed next president of the United States wound up in an alleyway in the middle of the night with these other journalists and no one knew what to do because no one had been in their shoes before,” Reitman stated.
“Telling the story to people I knew, I found that the reaction was different from each person I spoke to. And there was all this connective tissue to 2018. We are constantly trying to have conversations about gender politics and the relationship between journalists and candidates and the line between public and private life. I’m like anyone else alive. I look around and wonder how the hell did we get here. I’m trying to figure my own way through it. In this story I just saw threads that you could pull on, threads that led to today.”
To tell the story, Reitman turned to Matt Bai’s book All The Truth Is Out, which he and House Of Cards producer Jay Carson turned into the Front Runner screenplay. And it was through the adaptation process that he was able to find a way to not only tell the story, but how to show that the story had an impact still felt today.
“It’s my first movie about real life events and in that way, writing it was very different,” he explains. “There was not a question of what the plot would be. The plot was kind of set and done. The question was why to make it and how to make it. That was what we were thinking about as we wrote. It wasn’t a biopic about about Gary Hart, it was a story about the rest of us. Twenty main characters – journalists, people on the campaign team, his family, Donna Rice – all of their perspectives as the world shifted under their feet.
Ultimately, though, Reitman is confident that he has not only made an entertaining film, but one that also portrays the actual events honestly and fairly.
“I met Gary, I met Donna, I met the campaign team and I’ve shown them all the movie,” he says. “I think they all feel that what we made has a lot of empathy for them.”