In the summer of 1973, two men in their early 20s set out on a road trip. Their goal was simple: get one of them elected national chairman of the College Republicans.
It was early in both men’s careers, and both would come to be either loved or hated as they took leading roles in the campaigns of influential GOP candidates.
They were Karl Rove, the guy running for office, and Lee Atwater, his campaign manager.
A story about the two trying to win a college Republican election doesn’t sound like it would be exciting to anyone except maybe a few conservative nerds who love them — or a few liberal nerds who hate them.
Well, there’s either big money in a few nerds, or I’m completely wrong about audience interest, because StarStream Media has agreed to finance a film based on the Rove-Atwater road trip titled Young Americans. Production is set to begin in the fall with Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame starring as Atwater and Dane DeHaan as Rove. Amanda Seyfried also is set to star in the movie, which has been billed as a comedy.
John Krokida will direct the Wes Jones script, which was the top pick of the Black List survey in 2010 when it was titled College Republicans. The name change came after Deadline Hollywood originally reported the green-lighting in May.
The title Young Americans will undoubtedly sound more appealing to a mass audience than College Republicans, but will it fill theaters once liberals find out who it is about and once conservatives see it is a Hollywood production? John Hayward, writing at the conservative Breitbart.com, already has weighed in with his take.
“What could go wrong?” Hayward asked. “I don’t get the impression this script sets out to humanize Atwater, Rove, college Republicans, or adult Republicans. What could an America wrestling with the dawn of the imperial Presidency, and the sheer destructive incompetence of Big Government, use more than a black comedy about the youthful misadventures of the emperor’s opponents?”
Hayward says he’s no fan of Rove. He also thinks it odd that two people, who are certainly seen as demons on the left, would be well-known enough in mainstream society to set out as GOP bogeymen in 2016.
And, naturally, he was skeptical that anyone on the left coast might be making a similar film about any of the heroes of the political left.
“Say, when do we get a light-hearted buddy comedy about Barack Obama’s youthful misadventures with his terrorist mentor, Bill Ayers, or maybe his crazy days with the Choom Gang?” Hayward asked. “Will we be seeing a dark satire about the ‘byzantine strategy’ Obama used to get elected to the Senate, namely arranging for his opponent’s divorce records to be unsealed so he could be pilloried by the media and nearly driven out of the campaign?”
Of course, there was Primary Colors, which was somewhat based on the Clintons. But even that Mike Nichols-directed story with an all-star cast failed to garner enough box office to recoup the $65 million it cost to make it.
If a movie based on the Clintons can’t make money, can a movie on Rove and Atwater?
The Clintons have plenty of haters on the right, but they have a lot more fans than Atwater and Rove, both of whom have long been accused of dirty tricks. Atwater even publicly admitted to his wrongs as he was dying of cancer in 1991.
But Rove has enemies even in his own party. Meghan McCain still swears it was Rove, working for George W. Bush, behind a South Carolina whisper campaign in 2000 alleging that her dad, Sen. John McCain, had fathered an illegitimate black baby. Rove has denied he was behind the whisper campaign that is credited with handing the South Carolina primary to Bush.
According to Scriptshadow.com, an early draft of the screenplay for Young Americans portrays Rove as the straight-laced of the two. He doesn’t care for Atwater’s dirty tricks, but he puts up with them because they work.
If that portrayal survives the rewriting process, will anyone other than Rove himself want to see this movie? If it doesn’t, will even Rove want to see it?