by Ed Morrissey
Even better news: Deadline says the effort will be similar in tone to Oliver Stone’s W. The pitch line, according to screenwriter James Sclafani, is Citizen Kane meets Private Parts, except of course for one key point (via Slashfilm):
He’s the country’s top-rated talk radio host, beacon of conservatives, a lightning rod for controversy. Is Rush Limbaugh movie material?
Writer/producer James Sclafani thinks so, and has written a feature film about Limbaugh’s life that is in the process of being packaged and shopped for financing. Sclafani, who recently sold his script Counter Kid to Bill Murray’s Devoted Pictures, optioned The Rush Limbaugh Story: Talent on Loan from God, an unauthorized biography by longtime Gotham-based journalist Paul Colford, who currently heads media relations for the AP. The book served as the basis for the script.
Sclafani said the script he’s written is a close cousin to the Oliver Stone-directed George W. Bush feature W, in that he tries to get beneath the surface politics and controversies and down to the ambition and demons that drove Limbaugh’s success. The film will include contradictions that have gone against his radio diatribes, from the dubious 4-F draft status during Vietnam (unearthed in Colford’s book) to a get-tough stance against drug abusers that was contradicted by the revelation that he himself was addicted to prescription painkillers and got them illegally.
“This is Citizen Kane meets Private Parts, where you have a man who always had trouble relating to people in the outside world, but does it effortlessly in the booth,” said Sclafani, adding that Limbaugh is the proverbial fat kid, ignored in high school, and determined to prove everyone they were wrong about him. “There’s this anecdote about a game of spin the bottle in high school. The bottle pointed at him, and the pretty girl who was supposed to kiss him ran away, and that stayed with him,” Sclafani said. “When he came up in radio, he was culturally opposed to everything happening in the 60s and 70s, and all this left him with something to prove. He is an underdog, and became an extremely determined person with something to prove.”
Howard Stern told his own story in Private Parts, from his own autobiography. Sclafani used an unauthorized biography for his screenplay. Citizen Kane was another thinly-veiled unauthorized “biography” written by Orson Welles about William Randolph Hearst, another media titan of his time, as a means of casting Hearst as a bogeyman at about the same time Hearst was going broke. It’s a brilliant film, perhaps the best American film ever made (my money is on Casablanca), but it’s hardly a model of unbiased truth.
This seems much less incisive. We’re to assign Rush’s conservatism and his will to succeed to a game of Spin the Bottle? Well, heck, I played Spin the Bottle in high school too, but the girls didn’t run away from me. Does that make me a hippie? It’s hardly a Rosebud moment, although according to the film RKO 281, “rosebud” wasn’t a reference to a sled in Hearst’s life, and is closer to Spin the Bottle than snow-covered hills.
If Sclafani himself wants to compare his script to W, a political hit piece that the Washington Post called “a rushed, wildly uneven, tonally jumbled caricature,” few of Limbaugh’s fans will hurry to correct him. If he’s using that as a pitch, Sclafani may want to check the box office of Stone’s magnum dopus. It cost over $25 million to make and only made $25 million in domestic sales, only stayed in theaters a total of six weeks, and made less than $60 million worldwide despite skewering a deeply unpopular Bush.
Addendum: Congratulations are in order for Rush, though, as he gets married tomorrow.