Somewhere, Bill O’Reilly just threw a fit. The always-busy Sean Penn, fresh off his Best Actor win on Sunday night for playing Harvey Milk, is already lining up his next hot button, politically-tinged role that will rankle the ire of many a Fox News commentator. According to Variety, Mr. Penn is negotiating to play Ambassador Joseph Wilson in Fair Game, a new film based on the autobiography by Ambassador Wilson’s wife, outed C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame Wilson. In a bit of fairly spot-on casting, Naomi Watts is signed on to play Ms. Wilson, with Doug Liman set to direct.
Of course Mr. Wilson famously penned a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” where he concluded that the Bush administration had “exaggerate[d] the Iraq threat.” Soon thereafter, it was disclosed that his wife worked for the C.I.A. If all that sounds familiar to you, then perhaps you’re the only person on earth who saw last year’s Nothing But the Truth, which was loosely based on the case. Or hey, maybe you just read the paper.
Now while we’re tempted to say that Mr. Penn doesn’t look anything like Mr. Wilson, we did just see the star turn himself into Harvey Milk, so perhaps he really can do anything. A bigger problem for this film is that by the time it comes out, it could feel seriously dated. Will anyone still be interested in rehashing the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration a year from now? With the world economy in full-on meltdown and the strong potential that it won’t rebound until sometime in 2010 (or beyond) staring us in the face, it seems like there are bigger fish to fry. Plus, it’s not like these political movies do so well at the box office anyway--Frost/Nixon we’re looking at you. However with all that being said, we do hope this film gets off the ground with Mr. Penn in a starring role simply because we could not be happier at the prospect of the normally cantankerous Mr. Penn working with the notoriously contentious Mr. Liman. If an agreement is actually reached, we expect these two to start physically brawling within three days of their first meeting. This is especially true because though we happen to love most of Mr. Liman’s work (especially the still-fun Mr. and Mrs. Smith) he doesn’t seem like the best person to helm this movie. Unless of course Fair Game is actually a remake of the Cindy Crawford-Billy Baldwin film from the 90s. Then he’d be perfect.