By: Greg Mitchell
A private screening of the upcoming (Dec. 19) Rod Lurie film inspired by — but with fictional characters and, as it turns out, not closely based on — the Plame/CIA leak case, “Nothing But the Truth,” was held last night at a New York City theater. Kate Beckinsale, as we have noted previously, plays the reporter role strongly derived from Judith Miller and her long spell in jail.
Among those attending the screening: Miller herself, sitting right in front of Beckinsale (with husband Jason Epstein), and Matt Cooper, who almost went to jail himself protecting a source in this case.
When Miller’s name was mentioned in introductory remarks from the stage beforehand, it drew applause from the audience. Beckinsale had consulted her in preparation for the film, and “Nothing But the Truth” makes a strong pitch for a federal shield law (the key scene is an oration by attorney Alan Alda before the U.S. Supreme Court). The film’s reporter, here called Rachel Armstrong of the Capital Sun-Times, heroically spends almost a year in jail, even undergoes a beating — and then some.
Much more of substance on the film in an upcoming piece (and you can watch a clip over at our new blog, see link below) but for now: Also in the house last night were Lurie, Vera Farmiga (fantastic in the outed CIA agent role), Alan Alda (while he takes the Floyd Abrams role, Abrams himself plays a judge). Matt Dillon executes an evil version of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Angela Bassett is in the “Bill Keller” role and, yes, her paper stands behind the reporter, with only a little wavering, although Beckinsale’s husband in the film, David Schwimmer, does not.
It was a truly bizarre experience to sit, not by design, just behind Miller and watch her watching a version of herself on the screen (including getting shackled and abused in jail). She shared a good laugh with her husband when we watched Schwimmer cheat on his wife, tired of waiting for her to give up her principles and emerge from her cage.
The film opens with a key scene set in the newsroom but after that the newspaper execs are mainly in legal mode. (Lurie is a former reporter/critic himself and his father is the famed editorial cartoonist Ranan Lurie.) The basic plot of reporter-goes-to-jail-to-protect-her-source resembles the Miller case but what surrounds it diverges far from the Plame case.
Instead of a trumped-up invasion of Iraq (which Miller assisted) we have Venezuela getting unjustly blamed for aiding an assassination attempt on the U.S. president. The reporter breaks the Pulitzer-worthy story, in the process exposing the CIA agent, while Miller never wrote about Plame. And Beckinsale is the sole recipient of the leaks — there are no Matt Coopers, Bob Novaks, Bob Woodwards. The outed CIA agent’s husband leaves her. There’s no Scooter Libby character. No aspens turn. And so on. But the film never claims to be a true story of the actual episode.
Lurie directed the terrific film “The Contender” and created the TV series “Commander-in-Chief,” among much else. Before the screening he praised the performances (certainly apt) and noted that Farmiga is such a great actress she even managed to fool a real-life polygraph test.
The film also features a surprise twist at the very end where the original source of the leak is revealed. But I will not leak it. For a clip:
The E&P Pub