ROB REINER

August 13, 2019 at 4:30 am

Actor, director and activist Rob Reiner takes on Hollywood, the Washington establishment, and President Donald Trump.

Aired on September 5, 2018 and August 12, 2019. 

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>> IN 2003 THE UNITED STATES
PREEMPTIVELY ATTACKED IRAQ IN A
WAR THAT WOULD LAST FOR EIGHT
YEARS.
ACTOR, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER ROB
REINER'S NEW MOVIE IS THE STORY
OF A JOURNALIST AND THEIR
COVERAGE THAT CAST SERIOUS
DOUBTS ABOUT THE BUSH
ADMINISTRATION'S CASE FOR GOING
TO WAR.
TAKE A LOOK.
>> SIMPLY STATED THERE IS NO
DOUBT THAT SADAAM HUSSEIN NOW
HAS WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.
>> THEY'RE DIALING UP THE
RHETORIC ON IRAQ.
LET'S SEE IF WE CAN NAIL THEM
DOWN, OKAY.
>> LET'S GET TO WORK.
>> WORKING ON A THEORY THAT THE
ADMINISTRATION HAS ALREADY
DECIDED TO GO TO WAR AND IS NOW
FOCUSED ON HOW TO JUSTIFY IT.
>> IT'S NOT A THEORY.
>> WE'RE WORKING ON SOMETHING
IMPORTANT.
THAT'S WHY I'M HERE, TO MAKE YOU
AN OFFER.
>> WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?
>> EVERYTHING THE ADMINISTRATION
DOESN'T WANT US TO KNOW.
>> A SECRET WAR PLANNING GROUP
HAS BEEN SET UP IN THE BUILDING
WHERE I WORK.
>> WHICH BUILDING IS THAT?
>> THE ONE WITH FIVE SIDES.
>> THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT THE
TRUTH.
THEY WANT A WAR, THEY'RE GOING
TO GET ONE.
>> SHOCK AND AWE.
>> ALL DUE RESPECT, SIR, MY
SOURCES MIGHT EVEN BE IN THIS
ROOM.
>> DID YOU ACTUALLY HAVE SOURCES
IN THE ROOMS?
>> NO, BUT IT WAS FUN WATCHING
THEM SWEAT LIKE WHORES IN
CHURCH.
>> HERE IS ROB REINER, AN
OUTSPOKEN ACTIVIST, HIS TAKE ON
WHAT'S GOING ON IN WASHINGTON
AND AROUND THE COUNTRY.
GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
>> THANKS VERY HAVING ME.
>> I WAS CURIOUS ABOUT HOW FOLKS
WHO ARE EXPERIENCED, SUCCESSFUL
DIRECTORS, PRODUCERS, ACTORS,
DECIDE ON PARTICULAR PROJECTS.
>> YES.
>> SO WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS
THAT MADE YOU SAY, YOU KNOW,
I'M -- AND YOU ARE ALL IN.
YOU'RE ACTING, YOU'RE PRODUCING,
YOU'RE DIRECTING.
WHY THIS PROJECT?
>> WELL, YOU KNOW, I WANTED TO
MAKE A FILM ABOUT HOW WE GOT
INTO IRAQ FROM -- RIGHT FROM THE
GET GO, RIGHT AFTER THE INVASION
OF -- IN 2003.
AND I -- BEING OF DRAFT AGE
DURING THE VIETNAM WAR I
COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT WE WERE
GOING TO WAR AGAIN BASED ON A
LIE.
AND THAT WAS, YOU KNOW, JUST
INCREDIBLE TO ME.
AND I DIDN'T REALLY KNOW HOW TO
APPROACH IT.
I THOUGHT, WELL, I'LL MAKE IT A
SATIRE, LIKE A DR. STRANGE LOVE
KIND OF THING.
I COULDN'T GET A SCRIPT I LIKED.
THEN TRIED IT AS A DRAMA.
THEN I SAW THIS DOCUMENTARY BY
BILL MOIERS WHO WE QUO AT THE
BEGINNING OF THE FILM.
HE INTERVIEWED THESE FOUR
JOURNALISTS, ALL ABOUT HOW THEY
GOT IT ALL RIGHT, EVERY ASPECT
OF THE RUNUP TO THE WAR RIGHT
BUT THEY COULDN'T BREAK THROUGH.
I THOUGHT THAT'S MY WAY INTO
THIS STORY.
THEN WE MADE THIS AND IT REALLY
BECOMES ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF
JOURNALISM TO BREAK THROUGH AND
GET THE TRUTH TO THE AMERICAN
PEOPLE.
BECAUSE IF THEY DON'T, WE CAN
SEE WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES ARE.
>> WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS,
HAVING LIVED THROUGH THIS, AND
KNOWING THAT THERE'S USUALLY A
TENSION BETWEEN JOURNALISTS AND
PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATIONS,
HISTORICALLY IT'S BEEN THAT WAY.
>> RIGHT.
>> SOMETIMES THAT TENSION GETS
RATCHETED UP, WE SEE IT NOW, BUT
WE'VE SEEN IT WITH OTHER
PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATIONS,
THE TENSION GETS RATCHETED UP
AND BECOMES ADVERSARIAL, MAYBE
EVEN CONFRONTATIONAL.
BUT IT SEEMS, LOOKING BACK AS IF
IN -- THE TIME PERIOD LEADING UP
TO 2003 AND OUR INVOLVEMENT IN
IRAQ, THAT THERE WASN'T THAT
TENSION, THERE WASN'T THAT PUSH.
>> RIGHT.
>> TO DIG.
>> RIGHT.
AND THAT --
>> WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE
STORY HERE.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WAS?
I'M NOT CONDEMNING EVERYBODY.
>> NO, NO, NO, BUT I THINK IT
WAS CLEARLY THE TRAUMA OF 9/11
WHICH WAS SO PERVASIVE WITH THE
PRESS CORPS THAT THERE WAS GROUP
THINK.
NOBODY WANTED TO SEEM
UNPATRIOTIC TO GO AGAINST THE
ADMINISTRATION, ESPECIALLY WHEN
WE HAD JUST BEEN ATTACKED.
AND SO THERE WASN'T THE CRITICAL
DUE DILIGENCE THAT NORMALLY THE
PRESS WOULD DO BECAUSE THERE IS
AN ADVERSARIAL RELATIONSHIP IN
THE PRESS AND THE ADMINISTRATION
AND THERE SHOULD BE.
THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT.
I MEAN, THE CHARACTER IN THE
FILM SAYS, YOU KNOW, IF THE
GOVERNMENT SAYS SOMETHING, YOU
HAVE ONE QUESTION TO ASK, IS IT
TRUE?
AND THAT'S THE JOB IS TO GET TO
THE TRUTH.
THERE IS THAT TENSION.
I THINK THE TENSION WENT AWAY
BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE FRIGHTENED
OF LOOKING UNPATRIOTIC.
>> DO YOU SEE -- SOMETIMES
STORIES ARE TOLD ON FILM, AND
SOMETIMES THEY'RE JUST GOOD
STORIES.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING THE MESSAGE
IS COMING OUT OF "SHOCK AND
AWE".
>> WELL, WE OPENED THE FILM WITH
A QUOTE BY BILL MOYERS.
>> A FRIEND OF OURS AND A
COLLEAGUE.
>> GREAT GUY.
HE BASICALLY SAYS THAT A
DEMOCRACY CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT
A FREE AND INDEPENDENT PRESS,
AND THAT IS THE MESSAGE OF THE
FILM THAT RIGHT NOW THE PRESS IS
UNDER ATTACK MORE THAN IT HAS
EVER BEEN.
IT'S BEING CALLED THE ENEMY OF
THE PEOPLE.
IT'S BEING CALLED FAKE NEWS.
AND IN ORDER FOR OUR DEMOCRACY
TO SURVIVE, THE PRESS NEEDS TO
HOLD THE ADMINISTRATION
ACCOUNTABLE.
NOW, I DO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS
A BIG SWATH OF MEDIA, PBS
INCLUDED, "NEW YORK TIMES,"
"WASHINGTON POST," THE OTHER
NETWORKS, THAT ARE DOING THAT,
THAT ARE TRYING TO HOLD HIM
ACCOUNTABLE.
BUT THERE'S 40% OF THE
MAINSTREAM MEDIA, THE FOX,
SINCLAIR, BREITBART, EVEN ALEX
JONES, WHO ARE SPEAKING TO 40%
OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC.
AND FOR THE HONEST, MAINSTREAM
PRESS TO BREAK THROUGH TO THAT
40% IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE AND
ARGUABLY EVEN STRONGER HEAD
WINDS THAN THE PRESS FACED AFTER
9/11.
>> I WANT TO TALK WITH YOU IN A
MINUTE ABOUT SOME OF THOSE --
INCLUDING THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT AND THE
PRESS.
BUT ONE LAST QUESTION I WANT TO
ASK YOU ABOUT THIS FILM.
IT'S POWERFUL, AS SOMEBODY WHO
LIVED AS A JOURNALIST THROUGH
THAT TIME, IT'S REVEALING.
BUT I WANT TO ASK YOU
PERSONALLY, AS A FILMMAKER, AND
I THINK PEOPLE MIGHT BE CURIOUS
ABOUT THIS, HOW DO YOU DIRECT
YOURSELF?
WHEN YOU DECIDED TO DIRECT A
FILM AND YOU SAY, HERE'S MY
LIST, AND YOU'VE GOT MARVELOUS
ACTORS, AND I'M INCLUDING YOU IN
THE LIST OF MARVELOUS.
>> THANK YOU.
>> BUT YOU'RE DIRECTING
YOURSELF.
I'VE HEARD PEOPLE ASK THIS
BEFORE, DO YOU DIRECT ANY
DIFFERENTLY?
>> WELL, IT'S A RIDICULOUS CHORE
BECAUSE IT'S A COMPLETELY SPLIT
FOCUS.
AND I DIDN'T -- I WASN'T
INITIALLY GOING TO DO THAT PART.
IT WAS SUPPOSED TO ALEX BALDWIN.
BEFORE HE WAS SUPPOSED TO SHOOT
HE DROPPED OUT AND SAID I CAN'T
DO THIS.
AND I HAD ALREADY BEEN SHOOTING
FOR A WEEK.
I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
MY WIFE MICHELLE WHO IS ONE OF
THE PRODUCERS SAID WHY DON'T YOU
PLAY THE PART?
I FIGURED, WELL, I'M AVAILABLE,
AND I WORK CHEAP.
I CAN GET ME FOR THIS PART.
SO I'M PLAYING A CHARACTER, JOHN
WALLCOTT IN THE FILM AND HER ONE
DIRECTION TO ME WAS TRY TO BE A
LITTLE LESS JEWISH.
I DON'T KNOW IF I PULLED THAT
OFF OR NOT, I HAD TO RUN BACK
AND FORTH BETWEEN ACTING --
>> SOUNDS LIKE ONE OF YOUR DAD'S
COMEDY ROUTINES AND MEL BROOKS,
THE 2,000-YEAR-OLD MAN, HOW DO
YOU DO THAT?
>> I HAD TO RUN BACK TO THE
MONITOR AND CHECK MYSELF OUT.
IT WAS NOT PREFERABLE FOR ME.
>> HOW ABOUT WHEN YOU HAVE THE
ARRAY OF STARS THAT YOU HAVE
HERE, DO YOU DIRECT ANY
DIFFERENTLY THAN IF YOU WERE
DOING SOMETHING WITH SOME VERY
TALENTED ACTORS, BUT SORT OF
WORKING THEIR WAY UP, NOT
WELL-KNOWN, DOES THAT CHANGE AT
ALL?
>> NO, IT'S THE SAME, IT'S THE
SAME.
ACTORS ARE ACTORS, SOME ACTORS
NEED TO BE PUSHED, SOME ACTORS
WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE.
YOU HAVE TO GET A SENSE OF WHICH
ONE IS WHICH.
BUT THEY'RE BASICALLY ACTORS AND
WE'RE ALL THERE TO SERVE THE
MASTER, WHICH IS THE FILM, THE
STORY.
AND WHEN YOU HAVE A GOOD STORY,
AND IT'S A GOOD SCRIPT BY JOEY
HEARTSTONE, ACTORS WANT TO CHECK
THEIR EGOS AT THE DOOR, THEY
REALLY WANT TO BE PART OF
SOMETHING THAT'S BIGGER THAN
THEMSELVES.
>> A GREAT COLLABORATIVE
FEATURE.
>> IT IS.
I HAD A LOT OF IMPORTANT, BIG
STARS AND STUFF, BUT THEY ALL
WANTED TO SERVE THE STORY.
>> LET'S TRANSITION A LITTLE BIT
IN USING THE FILM AS A BIT OF A
SPRING BOARD INTO TALKING ABOUT
SOME CURRENT POLITICAL ISSUES.
YOU AND I ARE SIMILAR AGE,
YOU'VE GOT ME BY ABOUT THREE
YEARS.
>> I'M OLDING THAN YOU.
YOU'RE A YOUNG PUPPY COMPARED TO
ME.
>> WE'RE BOTH IN HIGH SCHOOL AND
IN COLLEGE DURING VIETNAM AND
DURING THE TURMOIL THAT THE
VIETNAM WAR BECAME.
AND PEOPLE OFTEN TALK ABOUT THE
STRESS THAT IT PUT ON SOCIETY.
AND HOW PARTISAN PEOPLE BECAME,
EMOTIONALLY PARTISAN.
DO YOU SEE SIMILARITIES NOW IN
TERMS OF THE PARTISAN POLITICS,
THE TERM TRIBAL PARTISAN
POLITICS, SIMILARITIES TO WHAT
WAS TAKING PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY
AND THE TEARING OF THE FABRIC OF
THIS COUNTRY.
>> WHAT WE'RE EXPERIENCING NOW
IS WORSE, NOT IN TERMS OF
OBVIOUSLY LIVES ON THE LINE.
I MEAN, DURING VIETNAM WE HAD
58,000 DYING AND MILLIONS OF
VIETNAMESE AND THE COST OF ALL
OF THAT, IRAQ SAME KIND OF
THING.
BUT WE WERE DIVIDED IN TERMS OF
WHAT WE FELT WE SHOULD DO.
SHOULD WE BE IN THAT WAR?
SHOULD WE NOT?
WAS THERE CREEPING COMMUNISM,
DOMINO EFFECT, WAS THERE NOT?
THOSE WERE A POLITICAL ARGUMENTS
AND DISCUSSIONS THAT WERE GOING
ON AND IT DID WIND UP IN THE
STREETS AND AT THE DEMOCRATIC
CONVENTION IN '68.
ALL THAT HAPPENED.
BUT RIGHT NOW, DEMOCRACY ITSELF
IS BEING TORN APART.
AND IT'S NOT SO MUCH DO YOU
AGREE WITH THIS POLICY OR THAT
POLICY, IT'S ARE WE GOING TO
DESTROY THE FOUNDATION OF
DEMOCRACY, THE PILLARS OF
DEMOCRACY, THE FREE PRESS, IS
THAT BEING DESTROYED?
THE RULE OF LAW, IS THAT BEING
DESTROYED?
THESE THINGS THAT HAVE HELD US
TOGETHER FOR 242 YEARS OF
SELF-RULE, THAT ERODING TO THE
POINT WHERE IT COULD DISAPPEAR?
THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THAT
DEMOCRACY SURVIVES FOREVER.
IT IS THE GREAT EXPERIMENT, AND
WE ARE THE LONGEST LIVING
EXAMPLE OF THAT EXPERIMENT.
BUT THERE'S NO GUARANTEE.
AND SO WE'RE SEEING NOW, IN A
PRESIDENT WHO THEY SAY HE'S
DECONSTRUCTING THE
ADMINISTRATIVE STATE.
HE'S DOING AWAY WITH ALL NORMS.
THAT ACUTE SAYING THAT THERE'S
AN EROSION IN DEMOCRACY AND A --
TO AUTHORITARIANISM, FASCISM,
AUTOCRACY, HOWEVER YOU WANT TO
TALK ABOUT IT, AND THAT IS
SCARIER TO ME THAN, YOU KNOW,
FIGHTING OVER WHETHER OR NOT A
PARTICULAR POLICY ONE WAY OR THE
OTHER.
>> DO YOU THINK, LOOKING BACK,
AND, YOU KNOW, YOU -- WE'VE
ALWAYS HAD DISAGREEMENTS, THE
FOUNDATION OF A DEMOCRACY IS
BASICALLY WHEN WE DISAGREE,
FIGURE OUT A WAY TO FIND SOME
COMMON GROUND.
AND HISTORICALLY WE'VE GONE
THROUGH ERAS THAT HAVE TORN US
APART.
BUT YOU REMEMBER STORIES ABOUT,
YOU KNOW, RONALD REAGAN AND TIP
O'NEILL, THE ABILITY TO SIT DOWN
AND HAVE A BEER TOGETHER AND
DISAGREE DRAMATICALLY BUT FIND
SOME WAY TO AGREE, SEEMS TO ME,
TELL ME IF YOU SHARE THIS VIEW,
SEEMS TO ME, HAVING BEEN A
JOURNALIST FOR THE LAST 30 YEARS
THAT FROM THE BILL CLINTON ERA
ONWARD WE'VE SEEN THE POLITICS
OF PERSONAL DESTRUCTION.
>> YEAH.
>> IT'S NOT ENOUGH JUST TO
DISAGREE WITH SOMEBODY, YOU'VE
GOT TO DESTROY THEM IF YOU
DISAGREE.
THAT'S A GENERALIZATION, BUT I
THINK IT'S FAIRLY ACCURATE AS A
DEPICTION OF THINGS.
DO YOU THINK WE CAN EVER COME
BACK FROM THAT?
>> I DO.
>> HOW DO WE DO THAT?
>> HERE'S HOW.
FIRST, WE HAVE TO PRESERVE
DEMOCRACY.
THAT'S THE FIRST ORDER OF
BUSINESS.
IF WE DON'T PRESERVE DEMOCRACY
AND IF WE DON'T STRENGTHEN RULE
OF LAW AND THE ABILITY FOR THE
FREE PRESS TO WORK AND DO WHAT
THEY NEED TO DO, IF WE DON'T DO
THESE THINGS THEN THERE'S NO
DISCUSSION.
IF -- ASSUMING THAT WE PRESERVE
DEMOCRACY, AND THOSE PILLARS ARE
HOLDING US UP, THEN IT WILL TAKE
A GREAT LEADER WHO IS WISE, WHO
IS INTELLIGENT, WHO UNDERSTANDS
THE NEXUS OF POLITICS, POLICY
AND HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS, AND
HOW THOSE THINGS INTERSECT.
AND WHO HAS TO BE CHARISMATIC.
I KNOW I'M PUTTING A LOT OF IF,
IF, IFS ON IT.
BUT IF WE HAVE THAT GUY OR THAT
WOMAN TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT,
THEN YOU CAN START THE PROCESS
OF HEALING AND BRINGING PEOPLE
TOGETHER.
BUT IT'S GOING TO TAKE AN
INCREDIBLE PERSON.
I MEAN, LOOK WHAT ABRAHAM
LINCOLN HAD TO DO TO KEEP THE
UNION TOGETHER.
WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE BLOODSHED
OVER THIS, AND HOPEFULLY THERE
WILL NOT BE BLOODSHED.
BUT WE DO HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO
BASICALLY IS INCITING VIOLENCE.
HE DOES IT DURING HIS CAMPAIGN,
HE DOES IT ALL THE TIME ABOUT
INCITING VIOLENCE, I HOPE WE
DON'T GO THERE, AND IF WE DO,
THEN THAT'S TRAGIC AND WE'RE
FIGHTING THE LAST BATTLE OF THE
CIVIL WAR, WHICH I FEEL WE ARE
FIGHTING NOW ANYWAY, WHETHER OR
NOT IT'S DONE PHYSICALLY OR NOT.
BUT A GREAT LEADER WILL HAVE TO
COME TO KNIT THIS ALL BACK
TOGETHER.
>> LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, DO YOU
THINK, TALKING ABOUT IF WE COULD
FIND THAT PERSON, THAT MAN OR
THAT WOMAN, OF WHATEVER PARTY
WHO HAS THOSE QUALIFICATIONS.
>> RIGHT, RIGHT.
>> I'M WONDERING THE THAT PERSON
COULD EVEN EMERGE THROUGH OUR
SYSTEM, SORT OF THE WAY WE ARE
NOW, YOU AND I WERE TALKING
BEFORE, TO RUN FOR OFFICE, YOU
HAVE TO RUN ON AN EXTREME END OF
THE SPECTRUM, YOU CAN'T RUN AS A
CENTRIST, EVEN THOUGH PEOPLE SAY
THE ONLY WAY TO GOVERN A
DEMOCRACY IS REALLY SORT OF FROM
THE MIDDLE.
HAVE WE REACHED A POINT WHERE IT
MIGHT BE IMPOSSIBLE?
THAT SOUNDS AWFULLY PESSIMISTIC.
>> I DON'T THINK IT'S
IMPOSSIBLE.
FOR INSTANCE, I DON'T KNOW WHO'S
GOING TO EMERGE, YOU KNOW, AS
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN 2020,
BUT JOE BIDEN IS THE KIND OF
PERSON WHO COULD BRING BOTH
SIDES TOGETHER.
HE COMES FROM A WORKING CLASS
BACKGROUND, EVEN THOUGH HE'S A
DEMOCRAT HE HAS SOME CENTRIST
VALUES.
HE HAS SOME PROGRESSIVE VALUES.
HE HAS SOME CONSERVATIVE VALUES.
AND HE COULD KNIT THAT BACK
TOGETHER.
I DON'T KNOW IF HE WANTS TO RUN
OR HE WILL RUN, BUT THAT KIND OF
PERSON YOU'RE GOING TO NEED.
AND I THINK EVERYBODY KNOWS JOE
BIDEN.
SO IT'S NOT LIKE JOE BIDEN IS
GOING TO BECOME BERNIE SANDERS
TO GET THE NOMINATION.
JOE BIDEN IS GOING TO BE WHO HE
IS, AND HE WILL -- PEOPLE WILL
KNOW WHO THAT IS.
SO I THINK SOMEBODY LIKE THAT
COULD HOPEFULLY EMERGE.
>> IT'S INTERESTING.
BUT EVEN WITH PBS AND THE
OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK AT LENGTH,
THERE'S SOME LIMITS WHEN I HAVE
TO WRAP UP.
BUT I WANT TO JUST GO BACK ONCE
AGAIN AND MENTION "SHOCK AND
AWE," THE FILM, SO POWERFUL AND
SO REVEALING AND SO
ENTERTAINING.
>> THANK YOU.
>> KIND OF WHAT YOU WANT FILMS
TO BE NOWADAYS.
ROB, IT'S A PLEASURE TO SPEND
SOME TIME WITH YOU.
YOU BE WELL.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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