Though Hollywood and Republicans have never been comfortable bedfellows, few in the film business expect that the GOP landslide Tuesday will create negative ripples on the movie-making front. Family values and excessive violence--on the streets and on the screen--may be dominating the national debate, industry insiders say, but--as the popularity of "Natural Born Killers" and "Pulp Fiction" point out--politics and entertainment are two different realms.
While many in the creative community are reeling at the magnitude of the Republican victory, interviews with studio executives, producers and political analysts suggest that the impact on the movie industry may, in fact, be negligible.
"Movies are ruled by the Movie God, not by the ballot box," observed former Sony CEO Peter Guber, a lifelong Republican who threw his weight behind President Clinton in 1992. "Subject matter, casting, distribution plans won't be altered by alterations in the country's political landscape."
While Hollywood is unlikely to undergo a sea change, few doubt that the messages of this year's election will eventually find their way into movies.
"Filmmakers will be dealing with stories about illegal immigration or the way society is dividing into one of 'haves' and 'have-nots'--just as they did with stories about AIDS and the Vietnam War," suggested TriStar Pictures President Marc Platt. "This morning I was pulled over for running a red light and a policeman asked to see my license. 'My passport, as well?' I asked--in anger over the passage of Proposition 187 (which denies public services to undocumented immigrants). Others feel as I do. . . . and attitudes find their way into art."
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America who formerly served as President Lyndon B. Johnson's press secretary, insisted that the industry's critical issues will not be adversely affected by the first Republican-controlled Congress in decades.
"Movie piracy, family values, open trade of movies and TV shows are bipartisan issues--not the preserve of a particular party," he says. "Republican senators ranging from Oregon's Bob Packwood to North Carolina's Jesse Helms are big supporters of filmmaking . . . and I have a good relationship with (probable Senate Majority Leader) Bob Dole."
Valenti--and his TV counterparts--will have a new roster of committee leaders to deal with in their D.C. lobbying efforts. Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) will probably replace Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) as chair of the all-important Senate Commerce Committee, which, under the Democrats, was expected to write new Information Highway legislation in 1995. Packwood--a friend of the cable industry--will likely become head of the Senate communications subcommittee now chaired by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii). And Rep. Jack Fields (R-Texas) is the leading contender to chair the influential House telecommunications subcommittee currently headed by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)
TriStar's Platt, who calls himself a liberal Democrat, suggested that the business side of Hollywood may find the new terrain to its liking. "Lower corporate taxes and less governmental regulation will be viewed by some as good for any big corporation--including entertainment conglomerates," he said. "The Time-Warner merger, after all, occurred in the (President) Bush era, when there was little antitrust enforcement. The strong are likely to become stronger."
One highly placed industry executive observed that the Republican debt to the Christian right could be problematic for Hollywood if the party becomes a bully pulpit.
"Most issues affecting the business are neither Republican nor Democratic," he said, noting that conservative Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) is one of the strongest advocates of protection of copyright--the most important issue facing Hollywood today. "Still, censorship is one of the foundations of the agenda of the Christian right, to whom the Republicans are now more beholden. That instills fear in the hearts of artists everywhere."
Movie producer Frank Price, a registered Republican who has supported such Democrats as senators Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts as well as California Gov. Pete Wilson and senatorial candidate Michael Huffington, said that the Clinton Administration has also weighed in as a critic of media violence.
"Last I looked, it was (U.S. Atty. Gen.) Janet Reno coming down on the networks," he says. "Censorship is not particular to either party. It's just that liberals are OK with sex while conservatives are OK with violence."
Last December, President Clinton himself attended a fund-raiser at Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency and challenged a high-powered media crowd to consider the impact of film and TV violence on impoverished youngsters who lack family and community support.
Though this fall's network programming has generated fewer complaints in that area than in years past, feature films are still ridden with blood and gore. Films such as "The Crow" scored big last summer and "Frankenstein," "Interview With the Vampire" and "The Professional" are being served up. Many have charged that the Classification and Rating Administration--the film industry's controversial ratings board--is much softer on violence than on sex.
Some in the industry say that the success of two recent studio releases reflect the electorate's hunger for morality and decency.
" 'Forrest Gump' was a feel-good movie of the first order--one that said that despite all the pain of 30 years of American history, life can still be good," said one studio executive. Others contend that it's counterproductive for studios to test the political waters before deciding what movies to make. According to the National Assn. of Theater Owners, the average consumer only sees six movies a year. And their entertainment choices are not always linked to their politics.
"The reality is that the public doesn't speak with one voice," said Kathy Garmezy, executive director of the Hollywood Policy Center--a nonprofit entertainment industry group.
Still, she added, the Republicans may try to use their newfound power as a mandate to dredge up issues on which Hollywood has already been raked over the coals.
Producer Sean Daniel ("Tombstone") said that while Washington is unlikely to intercede in Hollywood affairs, the scenario is not unprecedented. "The last time a Republican majority swept both houses of Congress during a midterm election, it was 1946, and it kicked off the McCarthy era and Hollywood blacklisting," he said. "I'm not saying that historical conditions are the same, but we'll be watching carefully for any rumblings."
Optimists suggest that the current situation is no different from the Bush-Quayle years when Republicans occupied the White House and Democrats controlled Capitol Hill. And the election, they note, contained a smidgen of good news.
"Led by the Motion Picture Assn., voters decisively rejected radical right-inspired bills in Colorado and Oregon," one industry insider said. "If the legislation had passed, it would have permitted local authorities to impose their own standards of what constitutes obscenity."
Clinton, however, is far from old news as far as Hollywood is concerned. On Dec. 3, some of Hollywood's biggest power brokers will fork out between $50,000 and $100,000 per couple at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser hosted by Steven Spielberg and his actress-wife, Kate Capshaw. Attended by the President and Mrs. Clinton, the event--to be co-chaired by David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle--will be held at the Spielbergs' home.
"The question on the table," said one political analyst, "is whether this election will discourage Hollywood's Democrats or give them even more reason to fight back."