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Karl Rove origin story 'College Republicans' -- will it make a compelling movie?

December 17, 2010 |  3:32 pm

Rove

The announcement earlier this week that the best script in Hollywood, as voted on by industry machers in the annual Black List survey, is the Karl Rove origin story "College Republicans," prompts a few questions. Can something this quirky and charged actually become a film? And what would it look like if it did?

Wes Jones' screenplay, as you might have read, is a before-they-were-kingmakers tale centered on a 1973 road trip taken by twentysomethings Rove and the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater as Rove drums up support for his candidacy for the chairmanship of the College Republican National Committee. (The two did actually take that trip, though Jones obviously invents many of the episodes along the way.)

The screenplay is quick-witted, briskly paced and offers plenty of insight into the two men's personalities -- Atwater is the freewheeling troublemaker, Rove the tightly-wound pragmatist. "The script uses our 30-year experience of Karl Rove as a public figure and boils it down and encapsulates it in one journey," says Greg Shephard, one of Jones' managers.

It also offers a kind of origin story about the modern political campaign. "You just figure out whatever it is that gets people most riled up and you hang it around the other guy's neck," is how Atwater describes his electoral philosophy to Rove, who's startled, as most people would be in those less-mudslingy days, that a tactic so brutal could also be so effective.

As it seeks financing and a director, the current incarnation of the movie has Shia LaBeouf playing Atwater and Paul Dano as Rove. (The independent project is with Anonymous Content, which also stewarded the tricky Black List script "The Beaver" to the screen). LaBeouf's attachment presents a timing problem -- the actor, one of the few young stars who could get an eccentric project like this made, is booked this spring with a period movie about bootleggers called "The Wettest County in the World" and, possibly, another "Transformers" installment down the road.

But the larger obstacle might be the subject matter itself.

While "College Republicans" doesn't come with the same thorny legal issues that plagued last year's Black List topper "The Muppet Man," a subversive story in which Kermit the Frog appears as a drinker and smoker, it is something of a tricky commercial prospect. The script’s protagonists are, after all, real-world people, one of whom is still very much on the scene and continues to elicit both adoration and hate. That’s the stuff of great drama, but not necessarily great box office.

A studio would inevitably take pains to portray a film as being above ideology, but it's far from a sure thing that the large number of Americans who consider themselves Republicans would embrace a Hollywood take on Karl Rove.

Jones' script also reads as both a serious exploration of electoral politics in the manner of "The Candidate" and a lighter-hearted buddy comedy, and a finished film could well have to settle on one of those two approaches.

Those who helped make the script a phenomenon say they feel these disparate elements can be blended. "At its core this is a road-trip comedy," said Ken Freimann, Jones' other manager. "And as a bonus we learn things that have had a profound effect on our country."

Karl Rove turns 60 on Christmas Day. His departure from the White House hasn't slowed him down or stopped him from mixing it up (earlier this year, for instance, he became an advisor to the Republican-candidate strategy group American Crossroads). It's all but certain he’ll be a fixture on the electoral scene in the coming years. Whether Hollywood in that time can pull off a movie about him is less clear.

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Karl Rove. Credit: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

RECENT AND RELATED:

The Black List Top 10

Can a Hollywood troublemaker play a conservative hero?

Who does Shia LaBeouf play from here?

Black List showcases best overlooked scripts


 
Comments () | Archives (16)

The comments to this entry are closed.

You guys at the Times continue to be confused about the Black List. They are not overlooked scripts, they are already on Hollywood's radar and only 300 people participate in compiling the list. There was a two vote difference between this script and another. I don't know how you go from there to declaring this the best script in Hollywood.

Only if we can get Michael Moore to direct it!

We already have "Bush's Brain." Who needs another movie about Carl Rove?

Only if the movie ends with conviction and jail time for Turd.

Who cares.

"Criminal"

Face of a Criminal to this registered Voter/Vet USAF, who ruined my country, and got away with it, now they want to make a movie about him, just goes to show you folks, even Sara Palin will be the next one they talk about making a movie over, unreal, what has happened to America where Karl Rove wrecked America. As the Republican run U.S. Supreme Court was allowed to buy up America's elections to the highest bidders "Insurance Companies, Drug Companies, U.S. Chamber of Commerce/Republicans bought up every seat money could be, if that's not criminal I don't know what is?

Provided they show Mr. Rove having slips put under windshield blades at church on Sunday caliming the opposite candiate was a homosexual just before election day. Thus, there was no time to protest
This was the way Republicans , especially in Texas, fought their campaigns. They continued to do that right up today. It was a black mark on the great Republicans from Lincoln, to Teddy Roosevelt and Hoover and Eisenhower and Goldwater when they believed in honor and integrity.

Make a movie about a couple of towering dick heads like Atwater and Rove?
I can't stop laughing!

I agree with truth to power. I'll go see it, if Michael Moore directs it.

I'm trying to figure out why the idea of this movie strikes me as unappealing, and I think it's this: the real figure of Rove is still up and around, with his face in the news, so a fictionalization would just make me wonder what the reality of the situation was, more than get me involved in the more abstract story. I mean, I don't really want to see a movie about a diabolical character who happens to be named Karl Rove, I want to know about the real Karl Rove.

Personally, I don't think of narrative film as a good delivery system for news.

"Boogie Man," the doc about Lee Atwater, is really good, by the way.

Mr. Rove came from a very poor background and worked his way through college. He has nothing to be ashamed of and has worked very hard during his life.

The best part will be where he explains that selling the country to China to finance the Bush tax bonuses for the American elite is good for us all.

This movie should be named "The Great Escape 2". If ever there was a wolf in sheep's clothing its Carl Rove. This criminal hid behind the skirts of George W forever whispering in his ear about what country to invade or who to fire. To make a movie about this A-hole is really reaching. Drop him naked in the mountains of Afghanistan and see how he far he gets. That might be a movie worth watching.

A short of taking a dump in a dirty truck stop would actually be more interesting...

Part of the Puppet Master series???

a karl rove movie has already been made
hannibal


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