TORONTO (Reuters) – “The Front Runner” tells the story of the fall 30 years ago of U.S. Senator Gary Hart over allegations of an affair, but the makers hope it also prompts an examination of what really matters in candidates running for high political office.
The movie, starring Hugh Jackman as the 1988 Democratic presidential contender, follows the brief period from Hart’s announcement of his candidacy to the suspension of his campaign following a media frenzy over allegations of an extramarital affair with Donna Rice.
Hart, who met with Jackman during the film shoot, denied the allegations.
Former political correspondent Matt Bai, who wrote the book “All the Truth is Out” on which the film is based, said the public seems to care less about sexual scandals in politics than it did at the time.
But the movie looks at questions the media and the public still wrestle with, he noted.
“Do we assume that everybody’s lying and everybody’s fraudulent and it’s our job to find out how?” Bai told a news conference on Saturday in Toronto, where the film is playing at the city’s film festival.
“Or do we endeavor to provide the context that the character requires, what they’ve been their whole lives, their whole career?” he added. “We hope to leave asking each other and arguing about what it is that matters.”
“This is a deeply human movie,” said Jay Carson, one of the screenwriters. “The people who are involved in politics are human beings trying to make difficult decisions every single day. There are no black hats or white hats in our story. There’s a lot of gray.”
The movie, directed by Jason Reitman, also hones in on the women affected by the scandal: Rice, played by Sara Paxton; his wife Lee Hart, portrayed by Vera Farmiga; and Molly Ephraim’s Irene Kelley, a young scheduler in Hart’s campaign.
“‘The Front Runner’ is a movie that’s also very interested in the emotional burden that’s put on women during a scandal,” Reitman said.
“Whether that’s Donna Rice, a young, bright aspirational woman who had her life stolen from her … or whether you’re the one young woman working at the Washington Post or one young woman working on a campaign, and are forced to speak for your entire gender.”
The film will be released in select theaters on Nov. 6, the day of the U.S. midterm congressional elections.
Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Richard Chang