By: Greg Mitchell
The long-awaited Rod Lurie, “Nothing But the Truth” — loosely based on the Valerie Plame/CIA leak case and starring Kate Beckinsale as a Judy Miller character — opens on December 17. E&P has written about this a couple of times, including a “set” piece from last December, which we reprint below.
The film also stars Matt Dillon, Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, and Miller’s real-life attorney, Floyd Abrams, in small role.
We have a clip from the film over at our new blog, the E&P Pub, at:
The E&P Pub
The movie was screened at Syracuse University at the end of October and the campus newspaper reported: “Lurie, a one-time journalist, told an overflow audience of SU students, faculty and Central New Yorkers that he always wanted to write a film about confidential sources. As he was writing the script, Lurie said along came the Valerie Plame case. The similarities between the movie and Plame being outed as a CIA agent and the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller for protecting a source are apparent, but the film has several unexpected surprises.
“The director said his interest in this film as with others he has written and directed is to show ‘principled people who become destroyed by their convictions.’ Lurie conceded that the movie is ‘not neat and tidy. No one is fully heroic.'”
Here is our Joe Strupp article from December 2007.
Peggy McKenzie might never become a Pulitzer Prize finalist, but at least moviegoers who see “Nothing But the Truth,” the highly fictionalized version of something akin to reporter Judith Miller’s First Amendment/CIA leak saga, may think she has. That’s because McKenzie, a 28-year veteran of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., has a cameo role as a reporter who learns she has been named a Pulitzer finalist, and lets out a scream.
Partly shot in the Commercial Appeal newsroom in early October, the film includes a scene with McKenzie as one of three finalists announced by an editor (played by Angela Bassett). During the four days of filming, Bassett, Noah Wyle, Kate Beckinsale, David Schwimmer, Alan Alda, and other big Hollywood names filled the Memphis paper’s hallways, desks, and parking lot. Most staffers say it was exciting to have writer-director Rod Lurie shouting “action” and setting scenes as they went through daily cop calls and phone interviews.
“It was a disruption, but everyone was kind of excited,” says Jody Callahan, a crime and politics reporter who has spent 15 years at the paper. “There were a lot of bright lights, but nothing that set me back from work.”
John Beifuss, the newspaper’s longtime film reviewer, says the staff had been warned that film crews would be at the paper, but claims the effect was worse than they expected. “I think people thought, naively, they would be in their corner and that is it,” he says. “But they commandeered the entire third floor and the street behind the building. They had 25 trucks and trailers and a catering truck. Some of us were relocated to the fringes.”
McKenzie, who earned her on-screen moment after volunteering to be one of several paid weekend extras, says of the experience, “you couldn’t do your job well because there were so many people here and you had to be quiet. But we got the paper out.” Beifuss says producers decided to film in Memphis because of state incentive programs for filmmaking. The Commercial Appeal is portrayed as the newsroom for the fictional Capital Sun-Times, he says, where Rachel Armstrong, played by Kate Beckinsale, is a young investigative reporter and Miller-like character.
The production crews from Yari Film Group added some changes to the third-floor newsroom, the film critic says. Fluorescent lights were added, along with digital flat-screen televisions, vertical blinds, and even a glass-walled conference room. During filming, staffers say it was difficult not to run into one or more of the stars while finishing daily reporting tasks.
“They were nice,” recalls McKenzie, but there was “not a lot of conversation.” She says Beckinsale, known best for her roles in “Pearl Harbor” and “The Aviator,” spent some time between scenes on a Saturday shoot answering phones at the metro desk: “She took one message for a feature reporter, and even wrote it down, and took a call from some city official trying to reach a reporter.”
Callahan, a huge “M*A*S*H” fan, says he wasn’t shy about asking Alda to autograph his vintage “Hawkeye Pierce” action figure as the Emmy-winning actor exited the men’s room. “He didn’t seem thrilled,” Callahan recalls. “But he signed it. I think I caught him off-guard.” The filming also drew an unusually high number of staffers during the weekend days, employees say. “Normally, on Sunday, there are three people here,” Callahan says. “That Sunday, everybody came in ? and brought their families.”
In the film, a reporter outs a CIA agent and goes to jail rather than reveal a source. Like “Scooter” Libby, Beckinsale lunched with Judy Miller but presumably will never have to testify about it ? except to celebrity profilers when the film comes out. Matt Dillon portrays a prosecutor, and in an ironic twist, Miller’s attorney, Floyd Abrams, plays a judge in the movie.
Lurie, a former reporter who has always had a political bent, directed “The Contender” for Hollywood and “Commander in Chief” for TV. “It’s a movie that puts journalism in a very positive light, and a movie that deals with the issue of the First Amendment,” he said in a statement. “I can’t imagine any newspaper wouldn’t be eager to be part of that.”