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Opinion Coming to a theatre near you. James Comey: The movie

Speculation about how future generations will view the current state of American politics grew intense this week as former FBI director James Comey followed up his prepared written statement by testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Thankfully, due to a lucky break in the space-DVD-special-feature-time continuum, I am in possession of portions of the actors' commentary track to the 3079 film All the President's Mendacity which, a trans-temporal Google search shows me, received a 77-per-cent fresh rating on RottenBio-EngineeredRedFruitProduct.com.

I can report that an actor by the name of Clint Hardshaw will one day be cast in the role of James Comey and I have transcribed some of his thoughts on the production here. I believe they offer insight into posterity's position on the Trump administration.

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"Look, I'd just turned 45 and I realized I probably wasn't going to get another Operation Improbable, and the Fast and the Furious franchise had [we were told] ended with The Rapidly Approaching and Beginning to Experience Relativistic Time Dilation. So when my agent called me up and said 'Listen, Clinty, here's the pitch, it's a period piece, you're a courageous former director of the FBI, fired by the president after you refused to give up your investigation involving possible collusion between a member of his campaign and Russian intelligence,' I didn't even ask to see the script.

"I saw the character as a six-foot-eight all-American 'M,' so I was a bit surprised when I got my sides on day one of the shoot and started going over my lines for the first scene. 'So much typing,' I thought, but while some critics complained Mendacity relied too heavily on that narrative device, I came to see it was important to establishing just who Comey is. Comey relied on typing. He was known to keep detailed notes and in this scene where I'm rushing out of Trump Tower and grabbing a laptop in the back seat of an FBI car, you hear my voice as I get it all down.

"I am besuited Sarah Jessica Parker on stilts in this moment.

" 'I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the president-elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy … .'

"Those were director Comey's own words, and this scene also establishes who Donald Trump is in the story. It tells the viewer so much because, generally, it's a good thing if, right after you meet a guy, you feel inspired to write poetry. It's a bad thing if you feel legally obligated to immediately file a memo with the FBI in case of future inquiry into your relationship, but, I was concerned, this was not the tense political thriller I thought I'd signed up for.

" 'This isn't like a cute rom-com thing, is it?' I said to Larry when we shot this next scene, 'Because robo-Hugh Grant hasn't worked in a while and this might be more his style, and I mean, what's my motivation for trying to hide in the curtains here?'

" 'The President,' said Larry, 'You're hoping the President doesn't see, Clint. The curtains are blue and you're wearing a dark blue suit. You don't want the President to start talking to you as if you were you were, at best, his golf buddy, at worst, his caddy, who just happens to lead the organization charged with investigating whether people working for him are co-ordinating with Russian intelligence to subvert U.S. democracy.

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" 'Your motivation for hiding in the drapes is your motivation for most of what you do in this story. Avoiding being alone with the President is your avenging your father's death. It is your Moby Dick. It is why you will eventually plead with the Attorney-General not to be left unattended in a room with him.

" 'His team seems to worry about him being left alone with people at all. In a scene we'll shoot later, Reince Priebus keeps poking his head in the door to check on the President when you're with him. History tells us it was less like being chief of staff and more like making a risotto.

" 'Anyway, your character's desperation not to be cornered by this one particular guy, at this one party, or anywhere else ever, is the reason why this film, which is almost entirely about old men, passes the Bechdel test.

" 'You are every woman ever. Later, at the hearing, when your character says that this man who has authority over you and could have you fired "couldn't possibly be having dinner with me alone" you are practically Xena, Warrior Princess, discussing engine maintenance with Ripley from Alien while forming a union and deciding which of her babies to give to the Nazis,' he told me.

"Looking back, this was one of my favourite scenes in the film. It really pushed my limits as an actor.

"I have a chiselled jaw amongst chiselled jaws. I've played dashing heroes and ultimately triumphant troubled underdogs. In Taken 379: Taken for Lunch, I fought my way through a band of ruthless Italian waiters to get into the kitchen and make my own damn gnocchi, because that's what I ordered, not the farfalle primavera.

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"Everyone remembers me for my delivery of the line 'I have a very particular set of skills, and they are not the skills of a man who would order the farfalle primavera.' I love that kind of work but I'd never before had the opportunity to do the 'ingenue reluctantly representing the FBI at a ceremony in honour of law enforcement' thing before.

"Oh, man, here we are, the dinner with Trump scene. Of this, Comey wrote 'My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.'

"Watch me here. Look, I do a great 'stoic' or even 'implacable,' but 'desperately trying to avoid making any sort of facial expression at all because I'm worried so much as blinking will be taken as acquiescing to the President's demand for personal fealty' was a challenge for me. It took a lot of takes, and ultimately a horse tranquillizer, but I think it worked out.

"Pauline Kael's brain in a jar liked it. She wrote that Comey had said of this moment 'I didn't move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed' and that I brought that calculated paralysis to the screen.

"Hey! This is gold. In this scene, the President calls me and insists – apparently this part of the script was also taken directly from the actual Comey's statement – 'he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia' and asks if I can 'lift the cloud.'

"The crew could not stop laughing. Like anyone dumb enough to defend himself by saying 'I'd never employ sex workers in Russia' would ever get elected President.

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"Oh, here we go, my favourite part, the big Senate scene.

"I talk a lot about how different this role was from my usual work, but here's what I think: Is telling the Senate intelligence committee that the administration 'told lies and defamed me' and that I felt the need to keep detailed records of talks with the President because 'I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,' all done while projecting almost superhuman levels of credibility, really all that different than climbing a giant glass skyscraper with suction cups so I can slip into the ventilation system and rescue a beautiful woman from a gang of desperate Liechtensteiner hostage takers?

"I don't think so. And what I love most about the Senate stuff is the sheer range of feelings it evokes. In a fairly short span of time, we go from serious political drama, as I explain that there is 'no doubt' that Russians interfered in the election and 'will be back' to pure surrealism as John McCain refers to my character as 'President Comey' and seems to fail to understand the concept of one investigation being over while another is still ongoing.

"Bit of trivia, there was an alarming moment on the set where the medical team thought Carl, who played McCain, was having a stroke and we had to explain that no, those were his actual lines, taken from an actual transcript of the hearing.

"Carl was awesome in this role. He actually had his spine removed to play the character. Such an amazing cast all round.

"When the giant white slug we cast to play Eric Trump said of Democrats 'They're not even people,' that was a classic line. All the Trump children characters were perfectly cast. Really captured who they were – a living encyclopedia of the things money can't buy.

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" 'Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?' Senator Burr asks me.

" 'None' I say. Boom! They ask me about claims the Russia investigation is 'fake news.'

" 'It's about as un-fake as you can possibly get,' I say. It's like the 'I am Batman!' of federal bureaucracy films. And that 'This is about America and not any particular party' line? That was on the poster, which sums the whole thing up for me."

Former FBI Director James Comey appeared before a committee of U.S. lawmakers Thursday, and was grilled about this interactions with the Trump White House amid accusations of collusion or interference by Russia during the 2016 election.
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