Each issue, RSL offers up that perennial internet favourite: the themed list. For this issue, we take a look at some real life journalists who were fictionalised on the big screen…
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
David Strathairn is CBS reporter, Edward R. Morrow, who waged an on-air war against Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist actions with the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. George Clooney co-stars as producer, Fred W. Friendly, in this highly-acclaimed look at Communist paranoia in 1950s America. The title of the film was Morrow’s on-air sign-off phrase, and, interestingly, real footage of McCarthy was utilised in the film.
All the President’s Men (1976)
Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford portray Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Washington Post journalists who investigated the Watergate break-in and ensuing scandal, which resulted in the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. The classic film is based on Bernstein and Woodward’s 1974 non-fiction book of the same name.
The Insider (1999)
Christopher Plummer stars as veteran broadcast journalist, Mike Wallace, in Michael Mann’s film, which tells the true story of Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), a chemist whose life takes a turn for the worse when he speaks out about tobacco industry practices on respected news magazine, 60 Minutes. Al Pacino also stars as producer, Lowell Bergman. The film was adapted from the May 1996 Vanity Fair article, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’, by Marie Brenner.
Steve Coogan stars as Martin Sixsmith, a British political journalist who gets caught up in a story involving a woman’s search for her long-lost son. The film co-stars Judi Dench and was directed by Steven Frears. While it’s based on Sixsmith’s book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, the script takes a few creative liberties with the facts. However, Sixsmith said his fictional counterpart shares “his intolerance of injustice in all walks of life”.
Shattered Glass (2003)
Hayden Christensen stars as Stephen Glass, a disgraced journalist for The New Republic, who was found to have made up many of his articles. The film is based on a Vanity Fair article of the same name published in September 1998 by H. G. Bissinger, which told of the rapid rise of Glass and his dramatic fall from grace. The New York Times review described the film as a “serious, well-observed examination of the practice of journalism”.
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)
Bill Murray is doctor of gonzo journalism and pharmaceutical connoisseur extraordinaire, Hunter S. Thompson, in this loose retelling of the writer’s drug-fuelled attempts to cover the Super Bowl and the 1972 US Presidential election. The scattered film is based on Thompson’s stories, The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat and Strange Rumblings in Aztlan. For more fictional Thompson, you could also take a look at Johnny Depp in the psychedelic trip that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and the flatly disappointing The Rum Diary (2011).
Next time, we take a look at some films that reacted to 9/11 and the war on terror (nope, we aren’t going to reference American Sniper again!).
Issue 6 of RSL is out on 3 August.