I just landed in Santa Fe and ran into my good friends Larry and Judy Bloom shooting at the airport. I'm in Santa Fe to be with Joe and Val the night the movie opens. Fair Game, because it's a limited release in only 19 cities, is not playing in New Mexico this week, but Joe and Val are hosting a charity event tonight that I'm going to attend. I think it'll be good for me to be with Joe and Val when the reviews come in and we start hearing feedback from the public. Thank God so far the reviews have been mostly positive. This film is such a faithful reenactment of Joe and Val's life and experiences that it's hard and strange to separate the review of the movie from a review of them. I've seen that some reviewers have trouble separating the two. This is same plane trip that Sean Penn took a year and a half ago when he spent several days living with Joe and Valarie Plame, in their home.
Sean, who was my first choice to play Joe Wilson, immediately responded to the script. It was my first time since Swingers that I got my first choice for all the lead actors. So Sean, once he said yes, got on a plane and flew to Santa Fe. As Joe tells it, Sean Penn knocked on Joe and Val's door and, before stepping into the house, Sean immediately asked: "What do you think of the script?" Joe's answer, not knowing he was being tested was: "It's honest" at which Sean stated: "OK, I'm in," and he walked in the door. Sean's answer meant two things: He was both going to do the film and also enter Joe and Val's house. I thought I had already convinced Sean to be in the movie but now it's clear to me, now that I know Sean, that this was a test and had Joe given any other answer, Sean would have turned around and hightailed it right back to LA.
Because Joe lives in the world of Washington politics, not Hollywood, he had no idea, until afterward, what this first exchange meant. One of my favorite experiences on this film is seeing Hollywood through their lens because between the African dictators that Joe spent 20 years with and the Middle Eastern weapons traffickers that made up Valerie's life, they both consider the characters they've met in Hollywood to be the strangest of all. Bizarre as that sounds, it doesn't surprise me, given the things I've seen in Hollywood.
While this is my first trip to Joe and Val's house since all of my meetings with them took place in Washington, D.C., and NY, I did love watching firsthand Sean Penn interact with Joe Wilson and his incredibly thorough process of becoming Joe Wilson. It was almost like watching a horror movie as Sean was absorbing the mannerisms of Joe Wilson, and bit by bit becoming more like him. It was maybe the most extraordinary things I witnessed in this business. At the end of it, Joe had a doppelganger. If you want to see a great example of this check out this clip, and then go see the film.