Charlie Wilson’s War Review & Blu-ray Features
Charlie Wilson's War
21 Dec 2007
Charlie Wilson's War
Interview with Main Cast
Do you regard Charlie Wilson’s War as a political film?
Tom Hanks: Well, mostly, political films are designed to tell a lesson, to communicate the editorial opinion of the filmmaker. I’m not necessarily interested in that. I love to see movies that examine the issues and take into account the human content of our struggles. But I don’t need somebody’s movie to tell me the truth about what’s happening. Make a documentary; I’ll see if that’s good.
Many filmmakers how found that it’s too soon to make films about the War…
Tom Hanks: We’re now going into the fifth year of the war in Iraq. We’re seeing films about the war but I’m not sure you can make films about the war just yet. People cast their actors and go to Marrakech or Death Valley but is that going to be more truthful than going to YouTube or googling combat footage of Iraq? My instinct says no. It’s not going to. I’d rather see a front line, one-hour documentary about what’s going on rather than something that was planned twelve months ago, filmed eight months ago and has a marketing campaign behind it. I don’t know if you can encapsulate the human toll or perspective of what’s going on in Iraq by making a movie on it. There were three movies about Iraq nominated for best documentary last year. I watched them all in a row and could not believe the amazing disparity of their perspectives. They’re all agreeing about the same thing but each movie told a story completely removed from the other. They were just reflecting back to us what it was like. And that’s where films about Iraq are going to let us down. They’ll be trying to tell us one, two or two and a half sides of what’s going on and that’s impossible. The best films about World War II were not made until five to ten years after the war had finished.
Do you feel that America television has been gagged when reporting on the War?
Tom Hanks: If so, well, shame on American television. You had footage of dead bodies coming home destroyed the credibility of the war in Vietnam so I understand why they don’t want to show it, but I was under the impression that the job of the media was to tell us the truth.
Did you ever think you’d open a movie lying naked in Jacuzzi with strippers?
Tom Hanks: Yes, I did [laughs]. I went into this career specifically so I’d end up naked in a Jacuzzi with naked strippers. In truth, by the time we got to do that scene we’d had so many lunches together that we just said, ‘Let’s drop them and let’s hop right in!’
Was the real Charlie Wilson on set?
Tom Hanks: He was on set. I’m not sure if he came in before Aaron Sorkin had delivered his screenplay but Charlie came in early on and said, “I don’t care what you say about me, I did it all anyway!” But he was just dead set on us getting his motivations right and getting what he viewed as the important story told. And this was the defence of the people of Afghanistan. He hated Russia and wanted them to lose the war. Whenever we went head to head against the Communists we lost, in Vietnam, a draw in Korea and he wanted victory. Yet we couldn’t do it with our own boys. We weren’t about to invade East Germany. He simply saw that by helping the Afghan war effort that was a means to defeat the most feared military force of aggression in the world.
What is he doing now?
Tom Hanks: I think he’s just received a heart transplant. He’s retired now. He was a lobbyist for Pakistan. And recently he’s had to keep dealing with people asking “What’s it like to have Tom hanks play your movie?”‘ I just remind him not to tell people that he really wished Kevin Costner had played him [Laughs]. Really, though, his actions were amazing. He achieved the impossible. It is an easy thing to say that if we hadn’t armed The Mujahadeen we wouldn’t have this war on terror. Well, that’s horseshit! That’s lazy history and easy opinion. Quite frankly, the guys that flew the planes into the WTC were trained in Miami. I mean, why not go back to the moment that one little molecule of sperm swam up a canal somewhere and fertilised an egg and out came Bin Laden! The truth is that while Western civilisation has never understood how that part of the world works from Alexander The Great, to the British in the Khyber Pass and Lawrence of Arabia. We’ve never got it.
So you felt Charlie Wilson was that important?
Tom Hanks: Yes, and to give Charlie his credit, he severed the Achilles heel of the Soviet Union. It was just nine months after they pulled out of Afghanistan that the Berlin Wall came down. And one of the reasons it fell was that the Soviet government knew that the cream of their armed forces had been decimated by a bunch of people in place called Afghanistan. And so they could not move to defend their borders in East Germany and Poland, and that has Charlie Wilson all over it
You chose Mike Nichols as director. What are his talents as a filmmaker?
Tom Hanks: He’s done everything from Catch 22 to Closer. He’s a filmmaker, Angels and American not bent on capturing the issue but on capturing the human behaviour that goes into it. That’s what I thought this film was all about, the political aspect and the historical world; they were important but ultimately it was the injection of human behaviour, the reasons why Charlie does what he does. It’s all this stuff that Mike delights in. That’s his bread and butter. All these almost unconnected details.
Did other directors express interest?
Tom Hanks: There were other directors that wanted to do it but quite frankly, as far as we’re concerned they didn’t get it. If they’d owned the rights, maybe, but we owned them so we listened to people, but we wanted Mike.
Was Mike responsible for getting Julia; he’d recently worked with her on Closer?
Tom Hanks: Yes, Mike got Julia. He just suggested her. Julie and Mike have a special relationship. She’s amazing – she knows exactly where she fits in to the hierarchy of the business and I think working’s not that important to her as it was. She’s got a husband and three kids, so has plenty of stuff to do. She doesn’t need movies. She’s only going to do a film if it’s going to be worthwhile. Never mind pleasant; it has to be exciting and challenging. The timing was just right for us.
Did you know your leading lady was pregnant during filming?
Tom Hanks: I didn’t know my leading lady was pregnant. We only found out towards the end of the movie when she was showing. When I saw it I said, ‘How did this happen? Explain it to me!’
Is the tragedy of the movie that the US doesn’t learn anything from the situation?
Tom Hanks: Yes, we don’t know the difference between what Sunnis believe and Shiites believe. We don’t know who is who. We don’t know where Kurdistan is. I can guarantee that people will see this movie and think that Charlie Wilson went and invaded Iraq. We’re an ignorant nation in America, and it’s only when we educate ourselves that we learn. And I’m sure that there will be editorials written that will blame Charlie Wilson for 9/11. They’ll say that if Charlie Wilson hadn’t been such an idiot Pakistan wouldn’t have nuclear weapons and 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. I can guarantee that that will happen because people are wrong and ignorant and they want things to be easy. By and large the United States populace and media want things to be easy, to understand, to report, to into neat little packages.
And filmmakers have largely neglected Afghanistan…
Tom Hanks: True, and I do think movies are a fabulous means of enlightenment. But it happens almost by accident. There are a lot of movies out there that can entertain us and enlighten and educate us but only if they reach us on a very personal level. I remember reading The Kite Runner and thinking, ‘Tehran used to make movies?’ So I do hope people leave Charlie Wilson’s War wondering about and discussing new things. But it cannot be like school or history lesson. It’ll have to be glamorous enough for people to go and see it or it’ll disappear.
How was it filming the scenes in the refugee camp?
Tom Hanks: Horribly heart breaking. I asked Charlie about this and he said he couldn’t deal with seeing with these kids. I’ve visited sick kids in hospitals and I’ve seen veterans in hospital but I’ve never seen refugees that were hurt like that.
You’re producing the WWII series Pacific. Any plans to direct?
Tom Hanks: No, I’m in my child rearing years and while I would like to do it, I can’t right now. It’d take me away from my kids. I didn’t want to be away from them; that would be inexcusable. I have to work as an actor and sometimes a job for an actor can be a vacation for the whole family. You go somewhere now and set up a new house for yourself. While directing you’re thinking about that job 18 hours day.
What stage are you at with the series?
Tom Hanks: We’re half way done. It’s a monster of a shoot, ten episodes, each one is 27 days of principal photography, huge logistics and all the bugs and snakes that you can think of in Australia. We have guys running round in the jungle up by Port Douglas and swimming in the ocean and we have of the 12 most poisonous snakes in the world up there! But with filming, what I’ve seen so far has been really magnificent. The story of WWII has been told so many times, so here we wanted to go to a much deeper and darker place; otherwise we are wasting our time. We have great Australian crews and actors.
Again Charlie Wilson’s another nice guy character. Will you play a villain again soon?
Tom Hanks: I’m in an interesting position because quite frankly I cooperate. I come around. I try and make myself laugh, tell you some stories. I don’t want to be some surly guy because this is how I am. This is what I’m like when I get up in the morning. Life is long. I’m here for five hours and I cooperate but when I play a guy who shoots someone in the head and then machine guns someone else in a movie [Road To Perdition] people still say, ‘Yeah, but you are still a nice guy!” I played an executioner [The Green Mile] but everyone said I was nice. Right now I’m playing a guy who fucks every chick he can, goes to bed drunk every night, snorts coke and you’re still gonna say I’m a nice guy!
You have a MySpace site. Do you update it yourself?
Tom Hanks: Yeah, I did that site myself. I didn’t update it very often but I only do. I do it to subvert the poor job mass media does! No, I get messages on it. Some people write stuff like, ‘You’re an ass hole, Hanks’. Or they will say, ‘You are queer!’ But I don’t tend to respond to these. I respond to some of the people, just not them!
RT/Meta Critic Review
Aaron Sorkin has written an acute, hilarious, and informative screenplay which is rich with character, and is perfect fodder for director Mike Nichols, who has a knack for meshing comedy and drama.(Click here to see)
Charlie Wilson’s War is both funny and entertaining. In fact, as far as making political points, you kind of have to look for them. (Click here to see)
While blacks aren’t as deep as one would like, solidifying on some costuming and evening interactions, the AVC encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) presentation provides a comfortable HD upgrade for “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Detail is perhaps the most enticing element of the viewing experience, with strong, deep textures on faces and fabrics, while set ornamentation and distances remain in clear view. Such sharpness is also enjoyed with the group dynamic, allowing the viewer to scan the room for individual performances. Colors are muscular and accurate, with a fresh boost of primaries and secure skintones. No damage was detected.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix doesn’t retain interest in a complex structure of elements, keeping to the basic level of character interaction for the most part, finding dialogue exchanges crisp and clear. Scoring is tastefully managed, sustaining mood, while soundtrack cuts are primarily positioned as source music, keeping subtle. Surrounds perk up with war footage, giving the track some directional movement with the launch of missiles and the exchange of gunfire, and some low-end rumble also brings out the enormity of violence on display.
- Making Of (17:09, HD) is a fluff piece created for cable television, going through the promotional particulars with cast and crew interviews, most collected during the press junket and visits to the set (with make-up and hair still in place). Information is primarily contained to a promotion, providing an overview of the “Charlie Wilson’s War” production effort, from origin to principal photography. Most appealing are interviews with the real Wilson and Herring, who appear to enjoy the renewed attention the movie has brought to them.
- “Who Is Charlie Wilson?” (12:21, HD) focuses on the career and achievements of the film’s subject, piecing together news footage, photographs, and interviews to explore the life and times of the congressman, who apparently wasn’t too distressed about his depiction in the movie, welcoming images of drunkenness and philandering.
- A Theatrical Trailer has not been included on this disc.