Bush film: Original or outrageous?

Times Staff Writer

This column explores the intersection between celebrity and politics.


A new film mixing archival footage and computer-generated special effects to portray the fictional assassination of President George W. Bush will premiere Sept. 10 at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival -- and is already kicking off a firestorm of controversy.

British filmmaker Gabriel Range said “Death of a President” -- which is done in a retrospective documentary style that has been described as eerily real -- is intended to be a thought-provoking critique of the current political landscape.


“It’s a striking premise,” Range conceded in a statement. “But it’s a serious film which I hope will open up the debate on where current U.S. foreign and domestic policies are taking us.”

In the film, President Bush prepares to deliver a speech to business leaders in Chicago, where he is confronted by a massive antiwar demonstration. Unperturbed, Bush goes ahead with the visit, but as he leaves the venue, he is gunned down by a sniper. While the nation mourns, the hunt for his killer -- a Syrian-born gunman -- swings into action. Range said he reviewed hundreds of hours of footage of Bush to make the film as realistic as possible.

A call to the White House for comment was not immediately returned. Festival officials were unavailable for comment Thursday, but festival director Noah Cowan praised the film in a posting on the festival’s website: “This is easily the most dangerous and breathtakingly original film I have encountered this year.”

And it may be the year’s most hotly debated film as well: The public relations firm representing the movie has been flooded with calls from media around the globe, and blogs are already lighting up with debate about the appropriateness of the subject matter.

This marriage

is a minefield

Celebrity divorces can get pretty messy, especially when the two sides fight over children and property.

But the pending divorce of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills McCartney may mark the first time that a charity is caught in the middle of an acrimonious split.

A charity backed by the former Beatle and his estranged wife has canceled a fundraising gala set for Oct. 11 in Los Angeles after McCartney said he would not attend, “given the current circumstances.”

The gala was intended to raise money for the Adopt-a-Minefield campaign, a charity that Mills McCartney helped found. (In years past, the group’s Los Angeles gala -- always packed with celebs -- has showcased performances by McCartney with a variety of other singers, including James Taylor, Brian Wilson and Paul Simon.)

McCartney, 64, and Mills McCartney, 38, announced their separation in May after a four-year marriage. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Beatrice.

A spokesman for McCartney said the singer-songwriter would be making a donation to the charity -- which was expecting to raise $3 million this year -- to compensate for the cancellation.

Not everyone’s on Bono’s bandwagon

Maybe rockers should just stay out of politics, suggests Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Wood told the British tabloid the Sun that he refuses to get involved in high-profile causes like other fellow musicians do, because he doesn’t think their efforts make a difference.

“I would never go into politics like Bono,” the 59-year-old Wood told the paper. "[Bob] Geldof and him can keep trying until the end of the Earth, but it won’t make a difference. I like to make people happy. Politics doesn’t do that. Art does.”

But others might beg to differ.

Bono is stepping up his push to raise money to fight AIDS and other diseases in Africa through his partnership with the American Express (Red) card. Victoria’s Secret model Gisele Bundchen and Keseme Ole Parsapaet, a Masai warrior from Kenya, will appear in ads for the cause. “Being able to help and change other people’s lives is wonderful and truly inspiring,” Bundchen said this week.

They’ve got

all the answers

A list of weighty questions -- submitted via Internet by people around the globe -- will be addressed by 112 global leaders, artists, musicians, activists, actors and others assembled by the website

Organizers for the site -- which serves as a global kiosk for people seeking answers and information about pressing global issues, such as poverty in Third World countries -- will hold the online town hall meeting in Berlin on Sept. 9.

Actor Willem Dafoe will moderate the event, posing the questions to panelists gathered around a huge table near Bebelplatz Square, site of Nazi book burnings in 1933. Among the participants are Cindy Sheehan, who has led grass-root protests against the U.S. war in Iraq; filmmaker Terry Gilliam (“Monty Python and the Holy Grail”); and Los Angeles guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal.

For weeks, Internet surfers have been submitting questions -- hundreds of them. The list will be narrowed to about 100.

One blogger, posting a comment on, wanted the answer to only one question: “Someone should ask them where I left my keys.”

Have you heard the one about ... ?

The late-night talk-show hosts are back from their summer vacations, and they have lots to say about Pluto’s recent demotion. Conspiracy theories were rampant.

“A panel of scientists voted to kick Pluto out of the solar system. They tried to explain the science of this to President Bush, but then they got fed up and just told him it got destroyed by the Death Star.” -- Bill Maher

“A bunch of astronomers got together and they have downsized the solar system. All through school as a kid didn’t you think there were nine planets? No, as of today we have eight planets. They have voted Pluto out of the solar system. They have downgraded the solar system from nine to eight. It is similar to what’s happened at ‘The View.’ ” -- David Letterman

“Leading astronomers have officially declared that Pluto is no longer a planet.... They think it may have something to do with Pluto’s drinking and making anti-Semitic remarks.” -- Jay Leno